Expository Essays Similar To Business Communication

10 Ways to...
With The New York Times
Have you been knocking your head against the proverbial wall trying to teach - or learn - expository writing skills? Take a fresh approach with these 10 tips! We encourage you to send us your thoughts about these suggestions by visiting our feedback page.
1. Ditch the five-paragraph essay and embrace "authentic" essay structure. Times news and feature articles are excellent models for structure, including transitions and organization. Look at the guide to forms of Times news coverage to get started, and then deconstruct some articles to get a feel for how they are organized.

Classic news stories like this one about conflicts over rebuilding ground zero are written in the "inverted pyramid" format, starting with the most important information - the first paragraph or two answers the questions "Who?" "What?" "Where?" "When?" Why?" and "How?" - and proceeding with the most important details, filling in the less important information as the article proceeds. This can be a useful structure for, say, newspaper articles based on the events in a play or novel, or relatively short research reports.

Feature stories pull the reader in with an engaging introduction and develop from there to explain a topic, issue or trend. Examples of this structure: this article on gauging the national mood by tracking popular songs, blog posts and the like, and this column on the blankets-with-sleeves trend.

A sub-genre of the feature, the personality profile, is also a useful expository writing model, as in this lesson on Dickens, which suggests using a profile of Bernie Madoff as a model for writing a character profile, and this lesson on the literature Nobelist Naguib Mahfouz.

To take the idea of using newspaper story structures further, try this lesson on comparing classic storylines with news reports.

2. Two traditional essay writing bugaboos are introductions and conclusions. The Times is full of creative ways to open and end a narrative, and these can help developing writers learn to avoid clichéd openings and repetitive endings. Here are some of the approaches Times writers take to begin and end their stories, together with examples of each one:

  • Narrative opening: Telling a story that illustrates or encapsulates the issue at hand, like this story about the dangers associated with riding in a taxi when the cabby is using a phone and this one about fans paying homage to Michael Jackson
  • Descriptive opening: Describing an element that is key to the story, like this description of a high-end coffee machine in a feature on the topic of fancy coffee makers
  • Question opening: posing a rhetorical question that leads directly into the rest of the essay, like this article about popular baby names
  • Frame: Bringing the essay full circle by starting and ending with elements of the same story, like this article on Cuban doctors unable to practice in the U.S.
  • Quote kicker: Ending with a quote that sums up the essence of the essay, like this one on raising chickens
  • Future action kicker: Ending with a look toward what may or will happen in the future, as in this article on fake art in Vietnam

    Looking for more inspiration? Read John Noble Wilford's retrospective article about covering the 1969 moon landing, focusing on the section "Moonfall Eve," in which he recounts trying to figure out how to start his article. The upshot: Simple is often best.

    3.Informing and explaining - how things work or how to do something - is part of journalism's bread and butter. Good Times models for information/explanation essays include articles on how dark energy works, why and how Twitter can be useful, how to make a soufflé and how to avoid heatstroke. To find more examples, good starting places are the recipes in the Dining section and the Science and Health sections.

    One specific type of explanation essay is analysis - an examination of why and how an issue is significant. If you're looking for good models, The Times runs many pieces under the rubric "news analysis," such as this article on the significance of steroid use in baseball and this one on President Obama's remarks on the arrest of Henry Louis Gates. Read these, or other articles marked "news analysis," and then try writing your own analysis of an event - perhaps something that happened at school, or perhaps something that happened in a piece of literature or in history.

    4. In addition to information and explanation, there are a few other key expository patterns. Here are the most common ones, together with a Times models of each one, each paired with a related handout:

  • Comparison - Technology article on Bing vs. Google; Venn diagram
  • Cause and effect - Health article on "chemo brain"; Cause and Effect Organizer
  • Problem and solution - Op-Ed on how schools should handle flu outbreaks; Problem-Solution Organizer
  • Extended definition - The On Language column, such as this column on the use of "associate", "model" and even "the" and the Times Health Guide, a library of information on numerous health conditions; Vocabulary Log

    For more fun with definitions, see the Schott's Vocab blog.

    5. Whether you're writing a descriptive piece or incorporating description into a larger expository essay, specific details are vital, as in this piece on a city mural and this one about Michael Jackson's signature dance moves.

    Of course, one of the best places to find colorful descriptions is the Times' Sports pages, as in this article about a tennis match played by Rafael Nadal. Use our Play-by-Play Sports Descriptions sheet to get a closer look at descriptive phrases in this or other sports articles.

    6. "I've said all I have to say." "How can I possibly write three pages on this topic?" "What do you mean, develop my ideas?" Essay writers often struggle with adequate development. Times features are perfect examples of how to fully develop ideas. For example, you might read "Drivers and Legislators Dismiss Cellphone Risks" or Michael Pollan's polemic on cooking shows and the decline of home cooking in the Sunday Magazine. Then create a "reverse outline" to reveal how the writer developed the piece.

    7. Like development, smoothly incorporating supporting material and evidence - including introducing and integrating quotations - can be a challenge for young writers. Add the requirement to follow MLA or APA style for citations, and for many students the challenge is insurmountable. Part of the problem may be that most students see few articles or other texts with academic citations in their daily lives. Using The Times for models can help.

    You might suspend traditional academic style requirements, and instead try newspaper-style attribution or even the Web protocol of linking to the source of information - such as this article on digital curriculum materials, which, among many, many others, shows both approaches. Other articles, like this one about government recommendations to schools regarding swine flu, are good examples of how to integrate both partial and full quotations, as well as how to include paraphrases.

    8. Subject-verb and noun-pronoun agreement can trouble even established writers at the newspaper of record itself, as the After Deadline blog has discussed, more than once. Once you've reviewed agreement rules, test yourself by looking for errors in the daily paper. And given that Times style is to avoid using "he" as a universal pronoun, virtually any news article or feature provides examples of ways to write around the singular pronoun. Of course, it would help us all if English had an all-purpose, generic pronoun, wouldn't it?

    More on agreement and other grammar and language quirks can be found on the Grammar and Usage and Reading and Writing Skills Times Topics pages, as well as on our Teaching with The Times page on Language and Usage.

    9. News briefs and summaries are models of conciseness and clarity. Read a few briefs, like the ones about the music video directed by Heath Ledger, the death of a show-biz dog, and a spate of squid attacks. And for the ultimate in brevity, look at TimesWire for one-sentence (or sentence fragment) summaries of the latest articles.

    10. Can't use the first person in expository writing? No one uses second person? Third person is required, and must remain entirely neutral and objective? Pshaw! The Times regularly uses all three perspectives, in creative and effective ways. Here are examples:

  • First person - "Watching Whales, Watching Us", a Sunday Magazine article in which the reporter included personal experience alongside research, and "Finally, the Spleen Gets Some Respect", Natalie Angier's scientific report on the spleen, in which she characterizes herself as splenetic
  • Second person - "Party On, but No Tweets", and the Gadgetwise blog post on a smartphone app for stargazers, which explains how the tool works, both of which repeatedly refer to "you," avoiding the clunky and unnecessarily distancing "one"
  • Third person with a clear voice/personality - Rob Walker's "Consumed" column in the Sunday Magazine, such as the one on the yoga "lifestyle" shop Lululemon and the Style feature "Hair, Hair, Hair, Hair, Hair, Hair"

    Use these and other Times models to learn how to write an expository essay that is compelling, convincing and authoritative as well as engaging to read.


    The banner image above was based on a College Board image of sample SAT essays, from the article Perfect's New Profile, Warts and All by Tamar Lewin.
  • Four types of essay: expository, persuasive, analytical, argumentative

    For our academic writing purposes we will focus on four types of essay. 

    1) The expository essay

     

    What is it?
    This is a writer’s explanation of a short theme, idea or issue.

    The key here is that you are explaining an issue, theme or idea to your intended audience. Your reaction to a work of literature could be in the form of an expository essay, for example if you decide to simply explain your personal response to a work. The expository essay can also be used to give a personal response to a world event, political debate, football game, work of art and so on.

    What are its most important qualities?
    You want to get and, of course, keep your reader’s attention. So, you should:

    • Have a well defined thesis. Start with a thesis statement/research question/statement of intent. Make sure you answer your question or do what you say you set out to do. Do not wander from your topic. 
    • Provide evidence to back up what you are saying. Support your arguments with facts and reasoning. Do not simply list facts, incorporate these as examples supporting your position, but at the same time make your point as succinctly as possible. 
    • The essay should be concise. Make your point and conclude your essay. Don’t make the mistake of believing that repetition and over-stating your case will score points with your readers.

     

    2) The persuasive essay


    What is it?
    This is the type of essay where you try to convince the reader to adopt your position on an issue or point of view.

    Here your rationale, your argument, is most important. You are presenting an opinion and trying to persuade readers, you want to win readers over to your point of view.

    What are its most important qualities?

    • Have a definite point of view. 
    • Maintain the reader’s interest. 
    • Use sound reasoning. 
    • Use solid evidence. 
    • Be aware of your intended audience. How can you win them over? 
    • Research your topic so your evidence is convincing. 
    • Don’t get so sentimental or so passionate that you lose the reader, as Irish poet W. B. Yeats put it: 
      The best lack all conviction, while the worst
      Are full of passionate intensity
    • Your purpose is to convince someone else so don’t overdo your language and don’t bore the reader. And don’t keep repeating your points! 

    • Remember the rules of the good paragraph. One single topic per paragraph, and natural progression from one to the next. 
    • End with a strong conclusion. 

     

    3) The analytical essay


    What is it?
    In this type of essay you analyze, examine and interpret such things as an event, book, poem, play or other work of art. 

    What are its most important qualities?
    Your analytical essay should have an:

    • Introduction and presentation of argument 
      The introductory paragraph is used to tell the reader what text or texts you will be discussing. Every literary work raises at least one major issue. In your introduction you will also define the idea or issue of the text that you wish to examine in your analysis. This is sometimes called the thesis or research question. It is important that you narrow the focus of your essay.
    • Analysis of the text (the longest part of the essay) 
      The issue you have chosen to analyze is connected to your argument. After stating the problem, present your argument. When you start analyzing the text, pay attention to the stylistic devices (the “hows” of the text) the author uses to convey some specific meaning. You must decide if the author accomplishes his goal of conveying his ideas to the reader. Do not forget to support your assumptions with examples and reasonable judgment.
    • Personal response
      Your personal response will show a deeper understanding of the text and by forming a personal meaning about the text you will get more out of it. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you only have to have a positive response to a text. If a writer is trying to convince you of something but fails to do so, in your opinion, your critical personal response can be very enlightening. The key word here is critical. Base any objections on the text and use evidence from the text. Personal response should be in evidence throughout the essay, not tacked on at the end. 
    • Conclusion (related to the analysis and the argument)
      Your conclusion should explain the relation between the analyzed text and the presented argument.

    Tips for writing analytical essays:

    • Be well organized. Plan what you want to write before you start. It is a good idea to know exactly what your conclusion is going to be before you start to write. When you know where you are going, you tend to get there in a well organized way with logical progression.
    • Analytical essays normally use the present tense. When talking about a text, write about it in the present tense. 
    • Be “objective”: avoid using the first person too much. For example, instead of saying “I think Louisa is imaginative because…”, try: “It appears that Louisa has a vivid imagination, because…”. 
    • Do not use slang or colloquial language (the language of informal speech). 
    • Do not use contractions. 
    • Avoid using “etc.” This is an expression that is generally used by writers who have nothing more to say. 
    • Create an original title, do not use the title of the text. 
    • Analysis does not mean retelling the story. Many students fall into the trap of telling the reader what is happening in the text instead of analyzing it. Analysis aims to explain how the writer makes us see what he or she wants us to see, the effect of the writing techniques, the text’s themes and your personal response to these.

     

    4) The argumentative essay


    What is it?
    This is the type of essay where you prove that your opinion, theory or hypothesis about an issue is correct or more truthful than those of others. In short, it is very similar to the persuasive essay (see above), but the difference is that you are arguing for your opinion as opposed to others, rather than directly trying to persuade someone to adopt your point of view.


    What are its most important qualities?

    • The argument should be focused
    • The argument should be a clear statement (a question cannot be an argument)
    • It should be a topic that you can support with solid evidence
    • The argumentative essay should be based on pros and cons (see below)
    • Structure your approach well (see below)
    • Use good transition words/phrases (see below)
    • Be aware of your intended audience. How can you win them over?
    • Research your topic so your evidence is convincing.
    • Don’t overdo your language and don’t bore the reader. And don’t keep repeating your points!
    • Remember the rules of the good paragraph. One single topic per paragraph, and natural progression from one to the next.
    • End with a strong conclusion.

     

    Tips for writing argumentative essays:
    1) Make a list of the pros and cons in your plan before you start writing. Choose the most important that support your argument (the pros) and the most important to refute (the cons) and focus on them.

    2) The argumentative essay has three approaches. Choose the one that you find most effective for your argument. Do you find it better to “sell” your argument first and then present the counter arguments and refute them? Or do you prefer to save the best for last?

    • Approach 1:
      Thesis statement (main argument):
      Pro idea 1
      Pro idea 2
      Con(s) + Refutation(s): these are the opinions of others that you disagree with. You must clearly specify these opinions if you are to refute them convincingly.
      Conclusion
    • Approach 2:
      Thesis statement:
      Con(s) + Refutation(s)
      Pro idea 1
      Pro idea 2
      Conclusion
    • Approach 3
      Thesis statement:
      Con idea 1 and the your refutation
      Con idea 2 and the your refutation
      Con idea 3 and the your refutation
      Conclusion

    3) Use good transition words when moving between arguments and most importantly when moving from pros to cons and vice versa. For example:

    • While I have shown that.... other may say
    • Opponents of this idea claim / maintain that …            
    • Those who disagree claim that …
    • While some people may disagree with this idea...

    When you want to refute or counter the cons you may start with:

    • However,
    • Nonetheless,
    • but
    • On the other hand,
    • This claim notwithstanding

    If you want to mark your total disagreement:

    • After seeing this evidence, it is impossible to agree with what they say
    • Their argument is irrelevant
    • Contrary to what they might think ...

    These are just a few suggestions. You can, of course, come up with many good transitions of your own.

    4) Use facts, statistics, quotes and examples to convince your readers of your argument
     

     

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