Exposition is the act of demonstrating the knowledge and expertise of the author on a certain topic. According to the online Oxford Dictionaries, “exposition” is “a comprehensive description and explanation of an idea or theory.” It is derived from the Latin verb exponere, which means “to put out, exhibit, or explain.” An example of exposition is provided by the following sentence in the online Oxford Dictionaries: “The first edition of the Critique contained a lengthy exposition of the theory of the transcendental idealism.” In the same way, expository writing is about sharing information to inform and explain a topic to the reader by providing relevant details, facts, and information. This kind of writing generally tends to leave out personal opinions, although it may be subject-oriented because it is often based on the author’s experience. Also, expository writing aims to illuminate the topic for the reader and help him or her better understand the writer’s view. It is one of the most common writing styles, if not the most common, since it is present in virtually all textbooks and “how-to” manuals. There is an interesting video on YouTube providing a general definition for expository writing and then dividing this particular style into four possible essays based on topic selection: Definition, Process, Cause-Effect, and Opposing Sides. A Definition Essay provides a full explanation of a term or idea including examples and other key information. A Process Essay provides a description of how something works or an explanation of how to do something including instructions, narration, or a sequence of events. A Cause-Effect Essay provides a description or explanation of the connection between two or more events, exploring either the causes or effects of the events in question. An Opposing Sides Essay explains two or more sides of an argument by presenting opposing ideas with fairness.
The video is not only clear and informative, but it also makes an interesting connection between exposition and culture. Indeed, something like Greek mythology and literature can be investigated through the process of expository writing, which makes it more familiar to the reader or viewer. It also explains how certain work of arts are produced and describes the techniques used in the process, which is important as it gives an example of how one can understand the relation between a lifeless essay to practical use, science, history, religion, and other topics. This is the main reason why this video is so appealing and different from the other videos dedicated to expository writing: it makes a connection with material culture studies, as this specific writing style is the best one to give an expression to cultural study and analysis.
Then, the video defines the principal components of expository writing: a thesis and supporting ideas. A thesis must include a topic and the essay structure, while the support must include relevant details and examples.
In contrast, a persuasive essay is about convincing the reader of a certain idea or point of view. The main goal is to support one’s opinion with evidence and research. While persuasive writing promotes a personal opinion, expository writing is based on factual information. According to the online Oxford Dictionaries, “persuasion” indicates “the action or fact of persuading someone or of being persuaded to do or believe something.” It comes from the Latin verb persuadere, from per– “through, to completion” + suadere or “advice.” Therefore, the opposition between the two styles is quite marked. Even the components, although similar, differ dramatically in the body part of the essay. A persuasive essay requires something more than details and examples; the opinion of the author needs to be supported with reasons, arguments, and justifications. Furthermore, persuasion may incorporate a call for action from the readers in the conclusion of the essay, a trait usually absent in expository writing.
A good starting point to write an expository essay is to know the what and the how of a topic (Arola, Sheppard, and Ball 40). In order to write an effective essay, it is necessary to know the topic well, as expository writing is mostly based on the articulation and description of something. In the book “Writer/Designer: A Guide to Making Multimodal Projects,” the use of technology to enhance the students’ learning experience has become a common feature of the way in which the exploratory process is carried on. The authors Arola, Sheppard, and Ball recommend students to research what’s already been said about a certain topic before starting the essay and also to investigate how other authors have presented their ideas about the topic. Using associations and multimodal techniques of analysis is also essential in order to fully explore and present a subject.
Something that struck me is the relevance of the audience in expository writing. Indeed, it is important to know well not only the topic, but also the kind of people you are describing and contextualizing the topic for. A certain audience may require background information due to their unfamiliarity with the topic; a certain audience may find background information annoying as they are already familiar with the subject; and someone else may want specific and detailed material in order to further his or her knowledge. In order to know what to write, one needs to know who the audience is.
Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. – E. L. Doctorow