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Exposition is one of the traditional modes of discourse.


A statement or type of composition intended to give information about (or an explanation of) an issue, subject, method, or idea. Adjective: expository. Compare with argument.

See also:

Examples of Exposition:


From the Latin, "to place"

Examples and Observations:

  • "The art of expressing oneself in a logical manner we call exposition, but 'logical' is not used here in any precise scientific sense. Indeed, we might say that exposition is the art of expressing oneself clearly, logic being implied in the structure of the sentences employed."
    (Herbert Read, English Prose Style. Beacon, 1952)

  • "In exposition, every statement is offered as a matter of accepted fact. In argument, only some statements are offered as matters of fact, and these are given as reasons to make us believe assertions or claims."
    (James A. W. Heffernan and John E. Lincoln, Writing: A College Handbook, 5th ed. Norton, 2000)

  • "[Exposition is one] of the traditional classifications of discourse that has as a function to inform or to instruct or to present ideas and general truths objectively. Exposition uses all of the common organizational patterns such as definition, analysis, classification, cause and effect, etc. Alexander Bain is believed to have been the first to identify this mode of discourse in English Composition and Rhetoric (American edition, New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1890)."
    (Linda Woodson, "Exposition." A Handbook of Modern Rhetorical Terms. NCTE, 1979)

  • "Where questions of style and exposition are concerned I try to follow a simple maxim: if you can't say it clearly you don't understand it yourself."
    (John Searle)

  • Answering Questions and Narrowing the Subject
    "Any expository paragraph or essay gives answers to questions: What? Where? When? Who? How? Why? . . . You will find it helpful to consider an expository essay as the answer to a question. . . .

    "The question you ask will emphasize the need for an explanation that will satisfy your readers. If the question is specific, it will restrict your broad subject. Finding an answer to a restricted subject will narrow the search for information required to convince your readers of the validity of your thesis."
    (Morton A. Miller, Reading and Writing Short Essays. Random House, 1980)

  • Info-Dump
    "Info-Dump. Large chunk of indigestible expository matter intended to explain the background situation. Info-dumps can be covert, as in fake newspaper or 'Encyclopedia Galactica' articles, or overt, in which all action stops as the author assumes center stage and lectures. Info-dumps are also known as 'expository lumps.' The use of brief, deft, inoffensive info-dumps is known as 'kuttnering,' after Henry Kuttner. When information is worked unobtrusively into the story's basic structure, this is known as 'heinleining.'"
    (Bruce Sterling, "A Workshop Lexicon." Paragons: Twelve Master Science Fiction Writers Ply Their Crafts, ed. by Robin Wilson. St. Martin's Press, 1997)
Pronunciation: EKS-po-ZISH-un
Also Known As: expository writing
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