What is an Explanatory Essay

An explanatory essay, obviously, explains a concept, an event, a process, or any other subject. This explanation is a picture of objective truth, not an expression of a subjective opinion of the essay’s author. As it is the case with every reputable essay, an explanatory essay should be based on true facts and common sense. Not to become a blunt encyclopedic entry, an essay must be written in a thought-provoking manner, if possible.

Explanatory Essay Definition

Explanatory essay, of course, took its name from the idea of explaining something. The meaning of the ancient Latin ancestor of the word explain was "to make something level, plain" in a literal sense, or "to make something clear" figuratively. And so, it is still relevant today, when in order for us to understand something, it has to be in plain sight, either of our physical or our intellectual eye.

Explanatory Essays and All the Things You Can Write About

Does a mention of such thing as explanatory style make you think about that psychology-related explanatory style, which describes those monologues we hold in our heads, telling ourselves why we are the way we are? No, never heard of that before? Well, whether you are familiar with it or not, get it out of your head, right now. Not for good, just for now. Because now is the time for a whole different kind of explanatory style - an explanatory style in academic essays. I know, I know, there is enough of that stuff at school, you are tired of pretending to be a writer, and all that jazz. But let me ask you, do you want to deal with it, write your essays quick and nice and then just forget about them, be free and go out, or you want to keep struggling through them because you still don’t know what exactly you should write, how exactly you should write it, or what a thesis really is?

If you want to know all that and have that knowledge set you free, bear with a more formal tone of the text that is about to follow, listen closely, and take notes. I will tell you about that explanatory style, the one that goes with essays, and in the end, you will be able to write in that explanatory style about that other explanatory style, the one that goes with psychology, and… You are right, a good essay writer should not confuse their reader, so let us begin.

An explanatory essay is a standard essay type, and it is probably the most common one among academic papers. An explanatory essay can often be combined with other types of writing, depending on particular instructions in the assignment, specifics of each individual essay, or personal preferences of a writer. When we define explanatory style of writing, we usually talk about formal vocabulary, concise and clear language through which we put our critical thinking process into words, specific fields of knowledge that an article or essay may concentrate on, accurate quotations, verified database, references to reliable sources, and the most important element: objective truth. A faster way to grasp the concept is to think of a teacher and everything they use in their speech when explaining something to a student.

One thing that has to be remembered about an explanatory essay is that it not always is a dispute type of writing, because its purpose is informative first and foremost. Although, that particular aspect depends on the type of explanatory essay. Usually, if the essay is not specifically required to be argumentative, a matter in an explanatory essay is presented in an unbiased, impartial way, where the writer is not taking any sides and not making any personal interpretations of the material. What is most important here is simply clarifying what the nature of a subject is so that the reader can effortlessly understand it. Also, explanatory essay often goes by the name "expository essay", but a more detailed insight into the relationship between these names will be found further in this text. Some types of an explanatory/expository essay can be more persuasive than informative. In most cases, it is a problem and solution essay type. Its purpose is often to shake the reader up a little bit, convince and encourage them to take action toward resolving a problem that causes a lot of distress to others or themselves. Besides from that, a descriptive essay can also deviate from the standard concept of an explanatory/expository essay: it may have some level of subjectivity in it, used to establish a more artistic atmosphere and prompt a writer to express themselves in a bit more creative way. On the whole, a descriptive vs explanatory debate is ambiguous, since descriptive essays are a type of explanatory/expository essays, yet at the same time, description and explanation stand as two equal but different ways in which information can be presented. It is also not uncommon in the essay realm to combine two or even more types of exposition in one paper.

Any personal views of the author may or may not be welcome by the assignment they have, but the presence of such views in the text quite possibly can influence its pertinence to a certain type of essay writing.

Explanatory Essay Outline

After you identify that specific type of explanatory essay that you have to write thanks to clues in your assignment, after you collect all the ideas and do all the research, - but before you start actually writing that paper - sketch yourself a handy outline. To do this properly, you have to be familiar with the key elements of any explanatory essay. They will serve as great tools to help you write a great essay.

These crucial elements of an explanatory/expository essay are:

  1. An introduction that tells the reader about the topic of the essay and its specific aspect as its focal point.
  2. A few paragraphs in the main body, each concentrating on a certain side of the matter.
  3. Only real data and relevant arguments in the content.
  4. Proper, logical order of exposition.
  5. Transitional sentences and expression that keep the attention of the reader on the course of explanation.
  6. Concise language and precise definitions.
  7. A conclusion which justifies the thesis and wraps up all the points presented in the text into one definite answer to the question that has been raised by the essay.

Explanatory Essay Format

The structure or format of an essay depends on the question it investigates and the kind of approach that is suitable for it. But generally, an essay takes a couple of pages and consists of five paragraphs. The first component is the introduction, where the reader gets acquainted with the topic and the thesis statement, which defines the main focus of the essay. The main body of the text is where all the “database” regarding the issue is presented: facts, statistics, definitions, and sentences that act as logical links uniting everything into a coherent text. The conclusion at the end of the essay transforms all the preceding content into one brief explanatory point that once more emphasizes the thesis statement. Now, we are going to take a closer look at each of these essential essay elements.

The Introduction

The question “How to start an explanatory essay?” is answered here. It all starts with an introduction. The introduction performs three main functions: 1) it gives a brief preview of what the essay is about; 2) it is a hook that is supposed to engage the attention of the reader with a curious or barely known fact, a relatable image that somehow shows the integration of the topic into the reader’s life experience, or something of the kind; 3) introduces the thesis statement to define a specific aspect or concept that you are going to explain in your essay, as well as its goal, which helps the reader see if it is the aspect and the goal they are looking for. A strong thesis statement for an explanatory essay must be concise and point out a specific argument that is the center point of the matter you analyze.

The Main Body

The main body usually has three paragraphs in it, each devoted to a separate key point of the essay. That ensures clarity of the explanatory text and facilitates its comprehension by the reader. Before those paragraphs, there should be a very short restatement of the topic and its particular subject matter that was presented in the introduction. You may actually do that at the beginning of every big explanatory paragraph you have to keep the reader connected to the main focus of the essay. Next, usher the reader into the analysis of the subject. Start substantiating your thesis with evidential base and other relevant information, usually extracted from research, if you have the opportunity to undertake it (otherwise, use the knowledge you already have). At the end, sum up the account on the subject you have just given, but save your ultimate point for the actual conclusion.

The Conclusion

The conclusion is an explanatory summary. Do not include any new substantial information here, let the reader digest what you have explained in the main body. For that purpose, repeat the core points of your essay once more, now in a brief yet more affirming way, since you have provided enough evidence for them. The conclusion paragraph in an explanatory essay must also show that your thesis was correct and that your essay has properly explained the matter in question. Moreover, it should leave an effective impression which would aid the reader's understanding of the subject and even prompt in them a desire to act upon something or take a fresh new look at an issue, which is often the purpose of persuasive explanatory essays.

Something to Note

Explanatory/expository papers represent a formal genre of writing, but applying your creative touch to them is not banned away. It is wise to remember, however, that it’s best to keep this creativity moderate and not cross the line between creative approach and turning your essay into an abstraction of literary postmodernism. An appropriate amount of creativity makes your essay feel more alive and more memorable to the reader, as well as produce more of the desired impact. This is an especially important attribute for an essay that seeks to switch on the willingness of people to take action and make a significant change.

An interesting element that can be included in your explanatory article or essay is counter-arguments against the arguments you have provided. Such a thing may answer some questions the reader might put while reading the essay, like, “What if this doesn’t work?”, “Is a different outcome possible?”, “Does this points of view conflict with any others?”, and so on. Counter-arguments cover possible deviations from common opinions about an issue and seemingly reasonable forecasts about an outcome of some situation, confirming that even in the world of facts nothing is totally certain. On the other hand, counter-arguments may be listed with the purpose of disproving them, thus strengthening your primary arguments even more.

Do not forget to:

  • provide references to all the sources you have used or cited in your work. It is in your own interest, for this step serves to “protect” your essay’s credibility and help you to stay clear of all that copyright hustle;
  • do a double check-up of your grammar, spelling, look for typos, rearrange any paragraphs or sentences if necessary;
  • become your own reader for a few minutes and examine the essay of this mysterious writer that you were just a moment ago to see if the paper satisfies you in terms of its readability, clarity, usefulness, seeming trustworthiness, and other important -ty and -ness kinds of things. In case that piece of writing is not satisfactory enough for you, return it to the writer-you with a request to fix or redo the essay.

Seriously, do not forget to do that.

Informative vs Explanatory; Explanatory vs Expository

Opinions about the correlation of explanatory and informative essays differ. "Informative" is more a manner in which an essay is written rather than an actual type of essays. But an informative essay is sometimes indeed defined as a separate type and put as a synonym to the explanatory/expository essay - because both informative manner and expository style are intended to reveal and explain some kind of objective truth through a certain database, facts, and common, objective opinions. Still, it is possible for a certain type of essay to be either informative or persuasive, and even combine both characteristics. The ultimate choice of types and tones for your essay depends on the specifics of your assignment, the preferred classification of your teacher, or your own favored way of writing, if you have the freedom to choose.

In the like manner, explanatory and expository essays can be viewed as the same type or different types. In the latter case, the emphasis on the distinctions between explanation and exposition is used as an argument in favor of such a view. Moreover, an explanatory essay might even be referred to as a sub-type of an expository essay.

Explanatory Paper: Summing Up

An explanatory paper exposes or explains a certain subject, process, or occurrence. It is important to bring to light some complex ideas within the matter that an average reader would struggle to understand. First and foremost, an explanatory essay aims at informing the reader about something, at examining the subject of the text. Additionally, the goal of the essay may be specifically changed for being an argumentative discussion that seeks to persuade the reader of the importance or correctness of a particular point of view. Generally, unless specifically instructed otherwise, judging an opinion or a fact good or bad is not what an explanatory essay should do.

Explanatory essays can compare and contrast things, analyze different processes, define various concepts, and explain all of that to the reader. Also, sometimes explanatory essays describe things and classify them, link causes and effects to each other, and suggest best solutions for urgent problems, among other things.

What is explanatory writing?

Explanatory/expository writing is much like a lesson that strives to lead the one who’s learning (the reader) through the principles of a concept or a process, the causes and results of certain events and decisions, bit-by-bit, in a way that analyzes every necessary aspect or component both separately and altogether.

An explanatory (or expository) essay is basically a report that educates the reader on how come something is the way it is or why something happened in a certain way. It uses proven resources and expert views to corroborate the main focal point of the essay and each of its little details. It is pure facts and logic that is needed in this kind of academic paper. All the rest is up to you and your instructor.