The Brilliant and Easy Guide to the 6 Types of Expository Writing

There are several types of expository writing which are sometimes explained to students while they are reading non-fiction text, but rarely do we use the types of expository writing to help our students write more successfully.  Expository writing is a lot of work in which students must research, organize, and write to explain.  It’s a huge task that many students find difficult. But if we actively teach our students about the different types of expository writing and how to use them to structure their assignments suddenly the assignment isn’t so hard.

I Never Learned the Types of Expository Writing in School

I was a hard-working student with good grades.  I probably worked twice as hard as some of my classmates because if I didn’t understand what we were learning then it was just a jumbled mess in my brain.  Everything would be flipped and confused.  I learned that to be successful I had to understand the content, and that took work.  I never understood the different types of expository writing.  I heard some of the types talked about, but I never truly grasped the differences between each kind.  

I can only imagine how a clear understanding of the types of expository writing could have impacted my reading comprehension and writing assignments.  I probably would have spent less time crying if I understood how to decode the reading or had a clear structure to follow for writing.

Impacting Our Students By Teaching the Types of Expository Writing.

Just as everything in schools changes and progresses so can this.  We can teach our students about the different types of expository writing to improve their reading comprehension and writing skills.  

What is Expository Writing?

Expository writing is writing that exposes facts or informs the reader.  The goal of expository writing is to deepen the reader’s understanding of the topic.  Expository writing is fact-based and presented in a logically organized way.  The writer is objective, meaning they keep their opinion out of the writing.

Expository writing is also called: 

  • informational writing
  • informative writing
  • research writing
  • explanatory writing

More Articles About the Types of Expository Writing

How to Teach Expository Text Structure to Facilitate Reading Comprehension

Types of Expository Writing – Definitions and Examples

6 Types of Expository Writing

We are going to talk about 6 types of expository writing.  Depending on the article that you read about expository writing you will hear that there are two, four, or even seven types of expository writing.  We are going to focus on six in this article.

Types of Expository Writing:  Process Essay

A process essay is an explanation or process of how to complete a task.  It can be as simple as a recipe or the steps of a complex science experiment.  The writer is trying to write a detailed explanation that lets the reader complete the task without mistakes, confusion, or questions.  It should also be a process that can easily be repeated.  

Process Essay TIps

  • Add alternative directions if they are appropriate.  For example, it might be an alternative ingredient or scientific measuring tool.
  • Use directional verbs while writing.  Some directional verbs are “mix, bake, whisk, blend, measure, combine.”
  • Use a supply list whenever applicable.  A supply list lets the reader quickly gather ingredients and supplies either from the cabinets or the store.
  • Avoid lengthy sentences or phrases.  The writer should stay focused because if there are extra details or explanations the reader can get confused.

Types of Expository Writing: Cause and Effect Essay

A cause and effect essay is written to explain why something happened and the effects of that event.  The effects may have a positive or negative impact, and sometimes it can even be both.  A cause-and-effect essay clearly explains the relationship and connection of the ideas using supporting evidence.  Sometimes all the effects aren’t known, but they can be predicted using developing evidence and logic.  This means that sometimes cause and effect essays can be hypothetical.  Students can explore “What would happen if…” topics.

Cause and effect essays have two main structures:

  • Block Structure – is when the cause is clearly presented and then the effects are laid out.  I like to think of this as a building.  The foundation is the cause and the effects are the bricks or walls.
  • Chain Structure – If there are multiple causes the cause is explained and then the effects.  Each cause is directly linked together.  Sometimes the previous effect becomes the next cause.

Cause and effect essays are often used in literary essays or social studies.  Topics often include the election of a public official, an environmental crisis, a historical event, or even a personal decision.

It can be a challenge to stay objective in cause-and-effect essays, which is why the writer must use supporting evidence.

Types of Expository Writing: Problem Solution Essay

Problem-solution essays usually involve four steps to effectively layout all the information for the reader.  First, the writer has to tell about the situation or problem.  Second, the problem needs to be explained in great detail.  Third, a solution or several solutions need to be presented. As the writer evaluates the solutions it can be helpful to include the pros and cons of each solution.  Fourth and finally, the writer might recommend the best solution by explaining if and how the solution can be implemented.

Types of Expository Writing: Compare and Contrast Essay

A compare and contrast essay is common.  We often ask our students to compare and contrast.  The comparison is when the writer compares the similarities.  The contrast is when the writer contrasts the differences.  What is being compared and contrasted should be of the same category.  This means you are not going to compare Alaska with going to the dentist.  However, you could choose two states to compare or even two cities in Alaska to compare.

There are two formats for a compare and contrast essay.  We will use an example to talk about these formats.  When students are first learning about compare and contrast essays we usually ask them to write about a topic they are very familiar with and so we will do the same by using cats and dogs to discuss the format.  Here’s a little bit about cats and dogs: life span, training, bathroom, and food.

Point By Point

In a point-by-point essay, the writer would first talk about the life span of both pets and then start a new paragraph about training.  The writer would continue to create a new paragraph for each point of comparing and contrasting.

Subject By Subject

In a subject-by-subject essay, the writer would first talk about cats and explain everything they want to explain and then discuss everything about dogs.  It’s almost as if the writer is writing a short essay about one topic and then a short essay about the next topic.

Either format is acceptable and it’s up to the writer and teacher to determine which is best for the assignment.

Types of Expository Writing: Definition Essay

A definition essay is an expository essay that gives a complete and detailed definition of the topic.  Definition essay topics can be concrete things with concrete meanings such as desk and mug. Or it can be about abstract things with abstract meanings such as love, respect, and anger.  

The goal of a definition essay is to fully explain the topic.  That means the writer will explain the purpose, who, what, why, and how.  Often the writer will appeal to the reader’s five senses to help increase understanding.  

Sometimes definition essays will make a guest appearance in other types of expository writing because understanding the definitions of topics can increase reader understanding.

Types of Expository Writing: Classification Essay

Classification is a word that is usually associated with science when the scientist breaks life on earth into the categories of animals, plants, and bacteria.  That’s a great way to help students understand classification essays.  The writer will break down a topic into different groups and categories.  The categories should have specific criteria and be explained in detail.  Then the writer will explain each category further including providing ideas and examples. 

For example, if we look at living things on earth we usually break them into bacteria, plants, and animals.  Each of these has predetermined criteria when you look up their definitions.  For example, bacteria are microscopic, unicellular, independently reproducing, and free-living,  Each part of this definition can be explained and used as a criterion for categories.

This blog is a classification essay.  I am telling you about the types of expository writing and each type has its own criteria.

Types of Expository Writing Tips

Here are a few quick tips that are perfect for any type of expository writing.

  • Outlines are helpful to create an organized piece.
  • Use clear and concise language so that the reader understands.
  • Use facts, data, and credible sources.  Once you research check your information with more sources to ensure accuracy.
  • Determine your audience and write for them.
  • Have a clear and strong thesis statement.
  • Be sure to use examples to increase interest and understanding of key points.
  • Use the writing process to make sure your work is clear and interesting.
  • Use literary devices and descriptive language to emphasize understanding of key points.  This will help you avoid overusing it. 
  • Always revise and edit.

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Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry

I know that you needed a prompt to help kickstart your students’ writing.  Here is an entire lesson for FREE.  My Our School Poem guides students through using sensory language to describe their school. The step-by-step directions guide your class through the writing process with all the necessary worksheets making this the perfect lesson for your classroom.

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