*Pop: to suddenly break open or come away from something often with a short, loud noise (Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary).
Option 1: Write expository essay in gunpowder. Light. Run.
Option 2: Use ink to string together words in a way that makes your reader say, “Whoa.”
I recommend the second option for various reasons, not the least of which is that I kind of like having ten fingers. I know what you are thinking: “Gunpowder go boom. Boom is fun.” Well, turn off Spike TV for a second, put on some pants, and give me a chance to show you a better way to write an expository essay.
Understanding the Basics of an Expository Essay
An expository essay involves coming up with an idea that you believe in, doing some investigation on said idea, taking a stance, and then formulating these thoughts into a clear and concise essay that, usually, argues your idea.
I know what you are thinking. Sounds a heck of a lot like an argumentative essay. True, they are similar. The difference lies in the preparation and depth of research.
Argumentative essays are often assigned as capstone projects. There is a reason many programs give you a semester to finish one.
On the other hand, expository essays are often presented on tests or in-class writing assignments. This means that the “research” step is sometimes done in your own head.
While expository essays will have some of the same structural qualities of an argumentative essay, they tend to take on a more personal tone. But, don’t mistake “personal tone” for “opinion.” Expository essays must inform based on logic.
The expository essay is one of the most traditional essay forms. If you are a student at any level, these bad boys are unavoidable. You will have to write one, or many. And, the most traditional way to write this most traditional essay is the 5 paragraph essay (cue lightning and thunder sounds).
Don’t worry. You’re going to have ample opportunity to put your own creative touches on your expository essay, but first you have to understand the basics. Read on for how to write an expository essay.
How to Write an Expository Essay that Pops — in the Wrong Way
I know you’re excited about poppin’ that essay like it’s hot, but there are certain aspects of an expository essay that are untouchable. If your essay lacks one of the following, your teacher might pop it straight into the trash.
A supportable topic: When choosing a topic, make sure you can argue it or take a stance in some way. Many times, the expository essay you write will be based on an essay prompt that is provided to you.
Choose an answer that can be expounded. If you can’t come up with at least 3 strong pieces of evidence in support of your answer, you better keep brainstorming.
Reliable sources: If you are working on an expository essay assignment that allows you to do some research, use reliable sources.
It sounds self-explanatory, but I can’t tell you how often I’ve edited papers for Kibin that contained “research” from Wikipedia. If you are using Wikipedia as your source of information, you may be led to believe Gary Oldman is a giraffe or that Tim Howard is the U.S. Secretary of Defense.
That kind of information is going to make your paper pop for the wrong reasons. Unless you are writing an expository essay about Wikipedia being an unreliable source, keep its information out of your paper.
An appropriate method of development: It is important to choose the best method for organizing your essay before you tackle the outline.
Methods include compare and contrast, definition, description, and many more. Think about which method will allow you to formulate your ideas in the most convincing and informative way.
For example, perhaps the prompt asks, “What is the best online editing service?” You could use “compare and contrast,” but there are tons of redundant companies out there that would waste too much of your and the readers’ time. Instead, you could use the “exemplification” model to give a few examples why Kibin is obviously the coolest kid at school.”
A clear outline: Before you jump into writing your essay, create an outline so you can stay on track during the writing process.
This writing skeleton allows you to see your topic and method of development on paper, so you don’t get lost during the writing process. It can include your thesis, topic sentences, and evidence. It may end up being quite similar to that of an argumentative essay outline.
An introduction, body, and conclusion: No matter how you decide to structure your paper, you’re going to need these three in there somewhere.
Your introduction should, you guessed it, introduce the topic. First, provide some background information. Tell the reader why this topic is important. Grab their attention.
Then, to avoid creating one of the unfocused papers that land on many teachers’ desks, end your introduction with a thesis statement. This will clearly set forth the topic you will be describing, arguing for or against, etc. The thesis statement is the star around which your entire essay orbits.
The body paragraphs contain the meat and potatoes, and by meat and potatoes I mean the nuts and bolts, and by nuts and bolts I mean the evidence and information. Each section of the body should contain one piece of your evidence or info. This allows your writing to stay focused, and it allows your reader to easily transition from one point to the next.
Your conclusion should restate the importance of your topic. You can quickly review the information and evidence you have already presented, but do not add any new information at this point.
Final Touches: Once you finish writing, it is important to go back and double check your work.
- You want to make sure that your topic is clearly presented or argued in your thesis statement.
- You want to make sure that each piece of evidence in the body of your essay strengthens the idea of your thesis in some way.
- You want to look for any holes that can be punched in your information or argument.
- And, of course, remove any mistakes that could distract the reader from your awesome ideas. A great way to do this is to have someone else look at your work, like the highly skilled editors at Kibin.
Tips for Turning that Dud of an Essay into a Roman Candle
Now that you understand all of the essential aspects of how to write an expository essay, let’s look at ways to spice it up a bit.
Focus your topic: So, you want to write your paper on the Beat Generation? That’s great! But, you do realize that the Beat Generation was AN ENTIRE FREAKIN’ GENERATION, RIGHT!?! We’re talking about dozens of writers over a decade that inspired obscenity trials in the 50s, new movements in the 60s, and meh movies in the 2000s. That’s a lot to tackle and, frankly, it’s too much for an expository essay.
Instead, focus on something that interests you within the Beat Generation, like the qualities of Dean Moriarty in Kerouac’s On the Road.
The interest part is important, because if you are bored with the topic, you’re words aren’t going to pop off the page (more on that later).
By narrowing your focus, you give yourself more wiggle room for creativity, because the amount of information you need to cover is less overwhelming.
Break the rules: One of my favorite things to do when writing is to break the rules.
Call me a rebel, but just the fact that we call them “grammar rules” makes me want to scream, “Anarchy!” and then proceed to write my entire paper as one run-on sentence.
Some of my favorite writers (Cormac McCarthy, Jack Kerouac, Hubert Selby Jr.) said to H-E-double hockey sticks with all that jazz and did what they wanted.
The beat writers, like Kerouac, loved to laugh in the face of literary conformity (I mean, c’mon, dingledodies?). They could get away with it because they knew the rules they were breaking, and then they did it because they believed it made their writing pop like those roman candles.
So, now that you know how to write an expository essay in the standard, proper, correct way, get creative with it. Take some chances. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new structures and methods of developing your essay.
Someone has to be the first, right?
Have a little fun: If you are having fun writing an essay, the odds are that the reader is going to enjoy reading it.
On the other hand, if you think essays about lowering the legal drinking age have been written about 72,589 times too many, and yet you choose this topic for your essay, chances are you will be bored while you are writing it.
Can you guess what emotion your reader is most likely to feel?
Instead, write about something that is unique and interesting to you. Perhaps you believe Coca Cola is the black liquid of Yankee imperialism. Or, maybe you believe you can write a one paragraph essay arguing that five paragraph essays are fascist.
The expository essay allows you to explore your ideas, as long as you can produce them in a logical way. So, do it. You might just make it pop and keep all of your digits.
For some creative writing prompts, check out this author’s list.
For some examples of expository essays, check out the example expository essays over at Kibin.com.
Finally check out this post for more information on the dos and don’ts of expository writing.
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.
And you have to find perfect hooks for an essay even when you don’t know what to write about.
When you are asked to write an essay, it doesn’t mean that you don’t get to express your own thoughts and creativity. An essay shouldn’t be boring or too formal. As a writer, your first priority is to make sure that you are keeping your audience in mind and writing for them and to them. That means grabbing and keeping their attention so that they want to read every word.
This is exactly why the essay hook exists and is such an important tool.
The use of hooks in writing goes far beyond just essays and college papers. Every writer, copywriter, screenwriter, and storyteller uses this device to draw in readers and keep them hooked. For example, world-famous ad executive, David Ogilvy, relied on a list of 29 “magic words” that he used in titles in order to hook a client’s attention.
College essay hooks can be difficult to generate, especially when you are still working on clarifying what your essay is going to say. So, the very first step in writing a strong essay hook is to do some planning.
This type of hook is appropriate when you are writing about a particular author, story, literary phenomenon, book, etc. Using a quote will make your essay sound fresh and establish your authority as an author.
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” These words of Nick Carraway perfectly describe…”
“Not all those who wander are lost.” And yes, indeed, every person is so…”
“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” Agree or not, but these words from The Alchemist determine…”
Including a quote from an authoritative and influential person can help support your argument and create an intriguing hook. The key is to make sure that you clearly show how the quote is relevant to your essay.
“John Wooden once said, ‘Never mistake activity for achievement.'”
“Learn to laugh” were the first words from my kindergarten teacher after Ralph Thorsen spilled paint on my daffodil picture.
Don’t be afraid to employ this type of hook. Remember, even if you start with a humorous anecdote, it doesn’t mean that your entire essay has to be funny. A bit of humor can help you grab readers’ attention and spark their interest in the topic.
“As my cousin and I pedaled our new bikes to the beach, 6 years old, suntanned and young, we met an old, shaggy-haired man weaving unsteadily on a battered old bike.”
“When I was a young boy, my father worked at a coal mine. For 27 years, he made it his occupation to scrape and claw and grunt his way into the bowels of the earth, searching for fuel. On April 19, 2004, the bowels of the earth clawed back.”
Keep in mind that most essay assignments will ask you to avoid using the first person. Be sure to check any requirements before using “I” in your writing.
Almost nothing can attract interest better than a well-constructed question. Readers will want to continue reading your essay in order to discover the answer. Be sure to avoid simple “Yes” or “No” questions and try to pose questions that ask reader to consider the other side or engage in some critical thinking.
“What would you do if you could play God for a day? That’s exactly what the leaders of the tiny island nation of Guam tried to answer.”
“Have you ever wondered, whether Anna Karenina still loved Alexei if she hadn’t decided to commit a suicide?”
People respond well to visual cues. Taking the time to set a detailed scene will help your reader have a clear picture in their minds and create an effective hook. You can describe an incident or detail the particular features of a person or a character to help the readers become immersed in your writing.
“The day of his birth began with Hurricane Charlie pounding at our door in Charleston, South Carolina.”
“Deciding to attend Hampton Roads Academy, a private school, was one of my most difficult decisions.”
These types of hooks start by surprising the reader with something that may not have known. Provide an interesting fact about something you are going to discuss in your essay’s body and your audience will want to keep reading to learn more.
“Spain, though hardly a literary juggernaut, translates more books in one year than the entire Arab world has in the past one thousand years.”
“Amiable is the best way to describe Elizabeth’s personality: she was friendly and caring.”
There is no harm in getting right to the point. Start with your main argument and use the rest of your essay to support your point of view. If you have an interesting take on a subject, readers will want to see where you came up with your idea.
“It is time, at last, to speak the truth about Thanksgiving, and the truth is this. Thanksgiving is really not such a terrific holiday. . .”
“Humans need to invest more time and money into space exploration because Earth is on a certain path to destruction.”
The most interesting essays will teach the readers something new. If you start your introduction by showing that a commonly accepted truth is actually false, your readers will be instantly hooked.
“Any parent will tell you that goldfish are a great first pet for a child. They hardly need any attention, and they won’t be around for too long. Flushing a goldfish in its first week is pretty common—it even happened to my first goldfish. But it turns out that goldfish aren’t as helpless as we all think.”
“While most coffee enthusiasts would tell you that their favorite drink comes from a bean, they would be wrong. Coffee is actually made from a seed that is simply called a bean.”
By listing proven facts at the very beginning of your paper, you will create interest that can be carried throughout the rest of the essay.
“The average iceberg weighs over 100,000 metric tons.”
“70% of all jobs found today were got through different networking strategies”
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Depending on the style of essay you are writing (narrative, persuasive, personal, critical, argumentative, deductive, etc.), the type of hook you will want to use will vary. Remember, your essay hook is just a tip of an iceberg and it will not guarantee that the rest of your essay will work. Be sure to organize your research and start with an outline before deciding on the best hook to start your essay. The right choice can make your paper truly interesting and worth reading.
Written by Lesley J. Vos, our blog writer and essay proofreader. Lesley is a big fan of reading, and she is always ready to help students come up with good ideas for their papers and reach their academic goals. You can always find her on Facebook and Google+.