The Comprehensive Guide On Writing An Explanatory Essay

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The internet is filled with contradictory information on the definition of an explanatory essay. We are here to help you simplify explanatory writing with easy tips and tricks. Before we delve deeper into this subject, you should know that explanatory writing is exclusively fact-based. It’s not about the writer’s stand or opinion.

Like all other essays, explanatory essays have common elements such as an introduction, the main body, and a conclusion. Furthermore, it is widely used in academics and forms part of the school, college, and university curriculum. Such essays are used to assess and improve the students writing and comprehension skills. 

As a factual piece of writing, explanatory essays provide lucid and unbiased explanations of an event. Instead of debating or arguing about a point of view, you just state facts in expository essays. Because many students struggle to create authentic expository essays, we have compiled this guide to help ease the writing process.

We will start with the basics. Then we will move on to the nuances of explanatory writing along with essential tips and key points to keep in mind when covering such essays. By the end of this article, you will be equipped with the knowledge to craft your very own exposition content. So, let’s begin.

What Is An Explanatory Essay?

Explanatory essays intend to inform, educate, or explain a particular phenomenon. It is a descriptive academic essay that is used to shed light on a specific topic. In such writing, the author researches and investigates the topic. The writer presents facts using statistics, examples, graphs, and charts to inform the reader.

The primary purpose of an explanatory essay is to convey vital information to the reader without any criticism. The writer doesn’t need to agree or disagree with the research topic. But, instead, it is the writer’s job to evaluate the evidence and present the findings. The writer must be objective and neutral when composing their arguments.

Explanatory writing examples include how-to guides, college course outlines, informative essays, etc. Such essays are common academic writing assignments, especially in the fields of journalism and history. Generally, students are assigned essay topics by teachers. However, sometimes students have the opportunity to select their own topic. 

Like other essay types, explanatory writing revolves around a central idea. Students are expected to explore and critically analyze the main idea. Their primary goal is to provide the audience with a clear understanding of the essay topic. They must present their findings in a well-structured and objective manner.

The break down of the essential components of an explanatory essay can be divided into the following:

  • A well-defined thesis statement forms the foundation of the essay.
  • An opening paragraph that reveals the main argument to the reader.
  • Well-structured body paragraphs that back the central idea or research question.
  • A fluid transition that effortlessly connects successive sections of the essay.
  • A conclusion that connects the dots and summarizes the entire essay without sounding repetitive.

Typically, the type of explanation you write is determined by the assignment your teachers have assigned you. However, if you choose it on your own, think about an article topic and its central direction based on the notes below:

  • Describe how to accomplish a task: Essays in the form of narration, description, exposition, dialogue, teaching, argumentation, and so on can be categorized based on the text structure they use.
  • Depending on the topic: Sort the texts into categories based on their subject matter- scientific, judicial, artistic, educational, academic, journalistic, advertising, and so on.
  • Depending on the purpose: Categorize textual forms according to the purpose they serve. They can be texts intended to persuade, inform, entertain, educate, and so on.

Ultimately, an excellent explanatory essay must achieve at least one of the objectives mentioned below flawlessly:

  • Define the essential concepts, terms, and theories. 
  • Deliver evidence-based examples.
  • Identify a common thread that’s true for all the samples. 
  • Compare and contrast the examples and their connections to the thesis statement. 
  • Examine the examples’ cause-and-effect linkages. 
  • Show them how the examples relate to each other.

What Are The Types Of Explanatory Essays?

Explanatory writing (also known as an expository essay) is one of the four classic discourse styles in composition studies. Narration, description, and reasoning are all the primary elements of such a writing style. 

Expository writing, unlike creative or persuasive writing, does not appeal to emotions and employs anecdotes. It is mainly used to explain an issue, subject, approach, or event. Independent of the type of essay you are writing, you may need to do any of the following:

  • Expound theories and concepts.
  • Demonstrate similarities and differences between certain events.
  • Present cause and effect reasoning of a phenomenon.
  • Discuss an issue at length.
  • Generate solutions to solve problems.
  • Categorize features into smaller, distinct groups.

The different types of explanatory essays are:

  1. Definition Essay:

A definition essay provides a simple explanation for a difficult concept. The introduction must include a definition of the topic chosen/given, followed by a personal perspective on understanding the issue. 

The body of the definition essay is divided into sections that offer a complete and comprehensive analysis of the issue. Finally, all key topics should be summarized in the conclusion. Some examples of definition essays are-

  • What is contemporary ballet?
  • What is Gothic Romanticism?
  • Explain climate change.

A definition essay is an academic piece of writing that defines a term, concept, or idea. While you may begin with a simple dictionary definition, your essay will eventually include a more comprehensive definition. In a definition essay, you can utilize a variety of strategies to expand on a term such as:

  • Denotation- Denotation is the use of the literal definition of a term or word.
  • Connotation- Connotation is the process of illustrating the implied meaning of a term or word.
  • Enumeration- Enumeration is the use of a list to define a term.
  • Analogy- Analogy is a comparison of two similar things.
  • Negation- Negation is defining a term by stating what it is not.
  1. Cause and Effect Essay:

This essay style focuses on the factors that contribute to something happening and, in turn, had an effect. The most important questions to answer when writing a cause-and-effect essay are “what were the grounds for its cause?” and “what repercussions were or will be confronted as a result of this?”

The two main approaches to writing a cause-and-effect essay are as follows:

  • Chain pattern- Explain the cause and then detail the effects one by one.
  • Block pattern- Start with the effects and then explain the causes.

Regardless of the structure you choose, make sure to clearly and Valuableexplain each section of the essay. Scientific studies, expert testimony, data, and stories are all useful tools for explaining complex relationships. 

Most cause-and-effect essays frequently use words and phrases that suggest linkage. These words help readers understand how the events are linked and keep the focus on the story’s progression. Here are a few examples of transitional phrases that you can use in your cause-and-effect essay:

  • As a result
  • Consequently 
  • Because
  • Due to 
  • Hence
  • Since 
  • Thus
  • Therefore.
  1. Compare And Contrast Essay:

A compare and contrast essay analyzes two or more separate subjects by comparing, contrasting, or both. Such essays accomplish two specific objectives. It addresses the similarities and differences between at least two different objects or ideas. 

The goal of the comparison or contrast is to highlight minor differences or unexpected commonalities rather than to express the obvious. For example, you wouldn’t choose apples and oranges for a comparison. Instead, you would compare and contrast two different breeds of oranges or two types of apples to highlight minute variations.

Generally, a compare-and-contrast writing style can be a whole essay by itself, or it can be used within paragraphs of any kind of essay. You can structure your compare-and-contrast essay using the following methods:

  • Alternating method- In the alternating method, you describe one aspect of the first item and then instantly address the identical aspect of the second item.
  • Block method- When you employ the block technique, you talk about one thing before moving on to the next. Typically, you’d write one paragraph about the first subject, then another paragraph about the second subject, and so on.
  • Combination method- Usually, you combine both the alternating and block method to create the essay in the combination method. You may use the alternate technique for a few body paragraphs before switching to the block style for a more thorough examination.
  1. Process or How-to Essay:

Process essays (also known as how-to essays) provide detailed explanations of a procedure. The primary purpose of a process essay is to provide readers with directions on how to accomplish something. When writing a how-to essay, you need to create an organized list of steps that explain or guide the reader.

A process essay not only discusses but also examines the processes in detail. It goes into further depth about the causes and effects of each phase of the procedure. 

It is essential to follow a logical or chronological order when writing the steps of a process essay. As a writer, you need to be extra careful to ensure that directions are systematic and easy to follow. Otherwise, it may confuse the reader. 

Process essays can be of three distinct types:

  • Directional essay- Directional process essays explain “how to” perform or complete a task. For example: 
    • How to apply for a passport?
    • How to organize a destination wedding on a budget?
    • How to invest in the stock market?
    • How to expand a small business?
  • Informational essay- Informational process essays describe how something works. For example:
    • How does a spaceship work?
    • How do human activities affect the environment?
    • How does dieting impact the human body?
    • How does democracy work?
  1. Problem And Solution Essay:

A problem and solution essay is written to explain a problem’s solution. This essay can offer various solutions to the situation you’ve described. In this essay style, a significant issue is highlighted as the main topic, and the writer provides the best solution. 

When writing such an essay, you have to view the problem from many perspectives to find a possible solution. Problem and solution essays have some essential similarities to cause and effect essays. Both essay styles use the same format. For instance, in the problem and solution essay, you highlight the primary issue first and then suggest a solution.

A good problem and solution essay will provide a relatively simple remedy to apply and solve the problem. You must stay away from all whims and focus on a single problem with defined, actionable approaches. Here are some problem and solution-explanatory essay examples:

  • The obesity pandemic is plaguing the USA.
  • The dangers of procrastination.
  • Bullying and its impact on the youth.
  • The severe repercussion of extensive social media use.
  1. Classification Essay:

An academic article that classifies ideas, people, or objects that share standard features into specific groups or categories is known as a classification essay. The classification essay differs from other types of essays in that it requires more study. The format, on the other hand, allows for a lot of creativity.

A classification essay requires the author to categorize objects, events, or people with similar characteristics. Furthermore, you have to explain the reason behind segregation. You can use essay examples and references to add more weight to your classification essay writing.

Some examples of classification essays are: 

  • What are the types of political activists?
  • What are the different styles of comedy?
  • What are the different categories of diet?
  • What are the various styles of modern dance?

The Basic Structure Of An Explanatory Essay 

Most explanatory essays follow the three-section structure. The breakdown of the explanatory essay format is as follows:

  1. Introduction:

Regardless of the essay type, the introduction is always the first paragraph. It is essential to include a hook in this section to generate interest among the readers. Ideally, the introduction contains a brief description of the topic. As a significant part of the essay, the attractiveness of the introduction decides whether the reader will go ahead and read the essay.

You should include essential background information about the research topic. This is to provide an overview to the reader on what precisely the essay covers. It’s crucial to keep the word count in mind as the introductory section should not exceed more than 200 words. It would be best if you developed an informative introduction within this limit.

The introduction covers the first two paragraphs of the essay and also includes the thesis statement. Usually, the thesis statement is added to the last paragraph of this section.

Since explanatory essays rely on solid research, you must develop a concise thesis statement. So, you should use reputable online journals, historical dictionaries, and relevant books for research.

To form a thesis statement, you may use the following:

  • A quote.
  • An anecdote.
  • A question.
  • A catchy motto.
  • A surprising fact.
  • A humorous statement.
  1. Main body:

A significant portion of your explanatory essay is the main body. The body paragraphs contain the evidence, facts, figures, statistics, etc., proving your thesis statement. The standard length of this section is three paragraphs. Each of these paragraphs begins with a topic sentence. All the lines in the paragraph must flow seamlessly from one another.

The main body must provide an in-depth perspective on the essay topic. You can include infographics, figures, graphs, tables, etc., to support your thesis. Any content you include in this section should strengthen your explanation. It should give your readers confidence in your presentation. 

You should include a concluding statement in this section. It should offer the audience an overview of the thesis statement and its significance. Furthermore, you need to ensure that all your body paragraphs flow cohesively. It should contain relevant information related to the main topic.

  1. Conclusion:

The conclusion of your essay is crucial since it reminds your audience of the topic at hand. This chapter should neatly wrap up the essay. To guarantee that you capture the audience’s attention, you should first restate the thesis statement. A summary of all three claims mentioned in the body paragraph should also be included in the conclusion.

You should explain the value of the perspective presented in the essay to leave a lasting impression on the reader. Additionally, ensure that you organize the conclusion logically. You should never introduce any new information in the conclusion section. Instead, it should re-emphasize the thesis statement and its relevance.

Pre-Writing Requirements: Outline

We always recommend that you create an outline before you begin your explanatory essay. The reason is that it makes the writing job more manageable. When you are equipped with an outline, you can plan and organize your content optimally. Moreover, it ensures that you don’t miss any relevant facts or evidence.

When drafting your explanatory essay outline, keep in mind that the length will vary depending on the topic. You must thoroughly research the topic to collect all the necessary information. Once you have the material in hand, you can plan the content structure adequately. 

You may use the following template to create your explanatory essay outline:

  1. Introduction Paragraph
    1. A hook.
    2. Background information on the topic.
    3. Thesis statement.
  1. Main Body
    1. 1st Body paragraph:
      1. Topic sentence.
      2. Supporting detail (an explanation).
      3. Supporting detail (an example).
      4. A summary statement that relates to the topic sentence.
  1. 2nd Body paragraph:
    1. Topic sentence.
    2. Supporting detail (an explanation).
    3. Supporting detail (an example).
    4. A summary statement that related to the topic sentence.`
  1. 3rd Body paragraph:
    1. Topic sentence.
    2. Supporting detail (an explanation).
    3. Supporting detail (an example).
    4. A summary statement that relates to the topic sentence.
  1. Conclusion
  1.  Restate the thesis statement without repeating the thesis in exact words.
  2.  Summarize and connect the critical points of your essay with a universal theme.

How To Write An Explanatory Essay? 

  1. Find A Good Topic:

It always helps the writing process if you know the topic beforehand. So, we advise that you select a topic that you understand well. You can examine topics from different genres before selecting one that sparks your interest. Ensure that you choose a topic that is neutral and easy to write about.

When the foundation is strong, it results in a great essay. Hence, it is vital to invest time and effort to pick a strong topic. You must evaluate the scope of the topic. There should be sufficient information available on the particular issue or subject. 

Pro Tip: Select a topic that allows you to explain the event rather than take sides. Keep the topic strictly expository and conventional.  

  1. Perform Exhaustive Research And Gather Evidence:

The extent of research determines the quality of your explanatory essay. Exhaustive research is a crucial ingredient for a well-defined essay. The information, logic, evidence, rationale, and arguments you use in the essay must be concrete, accurate, and concise. To find reliable information, you must look into credible sources and databases.

As a writer, you must examine the topic from all perspectives. This will help you craft a neutral and unbiased essay. You can gather statistical data, online surveys, and real-life examples to support your essay topic.

  1. Create An Outline For Your Ideas: 

Even if you don’t employ a formal outline format, you should use some sort of pre-writing method to make sure your ideas are logical and well-organized. Pre-writing techniques such as clustering, looping, freewriting, and brainstorming are all effective. The composition of your essay will be a breeze if you stick to your organizing approach.

The outline will help you analyze what’s important and what can be left out. You won’t get overwhelmed when you know precisely how to approach your essay writing task. 

Pro Tip: We have included an easy-to-use outline template in this guide. Use that as an outline when composing your explanatory essay.

  1. Develop A Solid Thesis Statement:

Although a thesis statement is usually one to two sentences long, its importance cannot be undermined. The thesis statement must convey the central message of your essay. Without a solid thesis statement, the essay won’t be impactful enough. 

An effective thesis statement is insightful and clear. It should contain key aspects of the essay. You may create a rough version of your thesis statement in the beginning and develop it further as you finish the essay. 

  1. Validate Your Thesis With Proper Evidence:

After you have done the necessary research, it’s time to start composing your essay. You must arrange all the research you have gathered coherently and logically. Every piece of information must connect with each other and support the central idea. When you frame your essay into different sections and paragraphs, ensure that they flow smoothly.

To avoid misconceptions, ensure that you only use credible sources. Given the nature of an explanatory essay, your entire essay will fall flat if you include any wrong information. So, you should always be mindful of the data you use in such essays.

Furthermore, you must be vigilant about how you compile the information. Each section should be divided into paragraphs, and each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence. If the content does not explicitly support the main topic, you should not include it in the essay. You must ensure that every part of the essay is clear, concise, and direct.

Pro Tip: Ensure that you use examples, statistics, and figures strategically throughout the text. 

  1. Write A Firm Conclusion:

Your essay should come to a solid conclusion. In a compelling concluding paragraph, tie your ideas together with great summing remarks. Furthermore, the conclusion chapter can be used to discuss the topic’s value and significance.

Post-Writing Requirements: Revision And Proofreading 

There is nothing worse than minor errors and grammatical mistakes bringing down the value of your writing. Hence, always ensure that you proofread the essay once it is complete. Reread the essay multiple times to make sure that it is flawless. When you find errors, take the time to revise and edit the essay properly.

The things you must scan for are:

  • Grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Vocabulary
  • Clarity
  • Spelling.

Pro Tip: Always proofread your essay the day after completion. You can review the paper with fresh eyes. That way, you’ll spot the mistakes more effectively.

Valuable Tips On Explanatory Writing 

  • Include transition words and phrases to clarify relationships. 
  • Uses graphics, formatting, and multimedia, such as hyperlinks wherever appropriate.
  • Maintain a consistent formal style and tone throughout.
  • Use precise vocabulary and language that is relevant to the topic.
  • Utilize facts, examples, anecdotes, and quotations intelligently throughout the content.
  • Strictly adhere to the conventions of standard English grammar.

A Must-Have Checklist To Go Through Before Submission

  • Is your narrative clear? Does the essay possess a logical thesis? Do relevant sources support the topic?
  • Have you coherently concluded all the information in the essay? 
  • Are you leaving the reader informed or confused? 
  • Does the conclusion aptly communicate the meaning of the thesis statement and supporting ideas?
  • Have you used proper citations in the text and the reference list?


If written appropriately, an explanation essay is a type of writing that can successfully demonstrate your writing aptitude and talents. The initial step for you may be to select an interesting or unconventional topic. You can even make a dull issue intriguing by spending sufficient time researching data and figures.

Additionally, paying attention to details and crafting logical arguments that are backed up by rigorous investigation can make your explanatory paper enjoyable to read. All you have to do is capture your audience with succinct arguments backed thoroughly by logical analysis, facts, and numbers. That would turn your explanatory article into a masterpiece.

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