Course Content
Chapter 3: Writing Mechanics Help
Chapter 12: Teaching Writing
Chapter 23: Teaching Reading
College English Composition: Help and Review
About Lesson

What Is an Expository Text?

An expository text is a text that is meant to teach something or to impart information to the reader. Because of that, it is a non-fiction text. It is not made up. Expository texts are often seen in educational settings, but they are also found in professional settings as well as in books that are meant to teach.

Characteristics of Expository Texts

There are a few key features that expository texts often have.

  • Educational purpose: The purpose of an expository text is to teach or to inform.
  • Use of clear/focused language: Because the purpose is to inform, the writer should use clear language so that the reader has the best chance of understanding the message.
  • Presence of factual information: While an expository text should not just be a list of unexplained facts, facts are almost always included in order to present the information.
  • Use of organized information: The information in an expository text has to be well organized for the reader to understand the information. How the essay is organized will be determined by the type of expository essay it is.
  • Use of reliable sources: Most expository texts will rely on other sources to help teach whatever subject they are trying to teach. These sources must be reliable and factual. The use of unreliable sources will hurt the credibility of both the author and the text.

Expository Texts vs. Narrative Texts

Another type of text is narrative text. Narrative texts tell stories, and they can be either fiction or non-fiction. In other words, they can be either true or made up. Narrative texts can have multiple purposes, and the purpose could be to teach the reader something. Narrative texts, however, can also be used to entertain. Narrative texts are presented in chronological order or time order. They have characters and a setting that expository texts do not have. Just because a narrative text may be used to entertain, however, does not mean that it cannot teach the reader something, and just because an expository text is used to teach does not mean it cannot contain a narrative. One example of using narrative to teach is biographical non-fiction. Often this type of writing is used to teach the reader about a person’s life, and it uses chronological order. This type of narrative would always be non-fiction.

Expository Text Structure

The structure of expository texts refers to how the text is formatted and organized which is determined by the purpose of the text. Writers use these structures because the organizational patterns help readers better expect what they will read and therefore better understand and retain what they read. Readers need to understand these structures because they will help them achieve their reading goals.

A expository text may describe a war


Types of Expository Texts

As mentioned above, expository texts have a particular structure depending upon the type of expository text being written. Below are five key types of expository texts.

  • Cause and Effect: The purpose of this type of text is to show how one event caused another. This can be simple with one cause and one effect, or it could contain multiple causes and/or multiple effects. A writer of cause and effect must clearly show how the one caused the other.
  • Compare and Contrast: In a compare/contrast piece of writing, the writer attempts to compare (show how things are similar) and/or contrast (show how things are different.) When structuring a piece of compare/contrast writing, a writer will need to decide if they will discuss all of one topic first and then all of the second topic, or if they will discuss different facets of each one individually.
  • Description: With description, a writer describes a person, place, thing, idea, concept, or any other number of tangible or intangible subjects. When writing a description, the writer must first decide how they will organize their text to make it most clear to the reader. The way this will be organized will be dependent upon the subject. For example, if describing a place, the writer may want to go around the place in a clockwise fashion. When describing a concept, however, the writer will have to decide upon a logical sequence.
  • Problem and Solution: In a problem and solution text, a writer attempts to present a problem along with one or more potential solutions. In this type of writing, the writer will want to clearly show how the solutions will, indeed, solve the problem.
  • Sequence: In a sequence text, the writer will attempt to explain the sequence of events to the reader. This is almost always written in time order.

An expository essay may describe a city

New York

Expository Text Examples

The number and types of topics contained in expository texts are unlimited as is the number of places a person could find them. Some places known for having expository texts are textbooks, news articles, magazine articles, informative websites, self-help books, how-to books, history books, and science books.

Below are some possible topics for expository texts.

Potential Topics for a cause and effect essay

  • The causes of World War II
  • The effects of aerosols on the environment
  • Causes of childhood obesity
  • Effects of smoking cessation programs offered to cardiac patients

Potential topics for a compare/contrast essay

  • How cardiac rehab outcomes differ by socioeconomic class
  • The difference in tax laws in conservative versus liberal states
  • The economic difference between owning an electric or a traditional car
  • How reading outcomes differ by various reading interventions in early grades

Potential topics for a descriptive essay

  • Milwaukee’s newest educational reforms
  • The Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago
  • Feeding habits of orangutans
  • Winter in Alaska

Potential topics for a problem/solution essay

  • Ways to decrease traffic congestion in the downtown area
  • Solutions to overcrowding in local public schools
  • Steps to decrease the number of nuclear weapons in the world
  • How to help struggling readers in the classroom

Potential topics for a sequence essay

  • The timeline of the Vietnam protests in the 1970s
  • The timeline of what happened in the North Tower during 9/11
  • What happens during the birth process
  • What happens internally when a computer is turned on.

Lesson Summary

Expository texts are texts meant to inform or to educate the reader on a specific topic. They differ from narrative texts in that narrative texts can also be used simply to entertain the reader. Expository texts present factual information in an organized manner. They use clear and concise language and reliable sources. Expository texts usually contain one of a few structures: cause and effect (meant to show the relationship between a cause and its effects), compare/contrast (meant to show the similarities and differences between two topics), descriptive (meant to describe the topic), problem solution (meant to show possible solutions to a problem), and sequence (meant to show the order of events).

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