“Write an essay explaining how email has changed the lives of students.”

As always, a close look at the instruction is essential. Here, there is nothing in the writing prompt that indicates that any kind of argument or opinion is needed. The instruction is simply to “explain.”

The goal here is provide information in as clear, concise and logical a manner as possible. Good exposition writers include journalists who are required to provide just the facts without the frothy emotional appeal of an argumentative piece.

Types of Expository Essays


Cause and Effect Essays

This kind of essay aims to explain how things affect each other and depend on each other. The writer identifies a clear relationship between two subjects, focusing on why things happen (causes) and/or what happens as a result (effects).

Classification Essays

This kind of essay is about breaking down a broad idea or subject into logical groups or categories. The writer typically organizes in a top-down way, starting out with the most general category classification and then defining sub-classes, usually with examples of each.

Compare and Contrast Essays

This kind of essay lays out the differences and similarities between two or more people, places, or things.

Definition Essays

This kind of essay explains the meaning of a word or idea. The topic may be something as concrete as an animal or a plant or it may something much more abstract, like joy or nostalgia.

Process Essays

These give a step-by-step explanation of a particular procedure, with the goal of walking the reader through the process of accomplishing a specific task.

Expository Essay

Organize your essay. Most expository essays are comprised of five paragraphs. See our guide on How To Write the Five Paragraph Essay for insight into how best use that format to construct your essay.

Maintain some distance. Since the expository essay is not based on personal experience, students should write in the third person (“he,” “she,” or “it”), and avoid using first person language like “I” or “we.”

Example Expository Essays

Now that you’ve learned how to write an effective essay, check out our Sample Essays so you can see how they are done in practice.