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How to Write an Explanatory Essay: Example & Guide

26 Mar 2019

Whether you are attending a local college or studying at Princeton University, you should be able to complete excellent explanatory papers, because this type of writing is a primary method of conveying information objectively. It may seem that there is nothing more simple than to compose an explanatory essay. People constantly exchange informative messages, and many of them occur in written communication. Still, as a kind of academic paper, explanatory essay should possess certain features that clearly distinguish it from other forms of writing. We encourage you to use guidelines from experts that help gain new knowledge and writing skills.

Explanatory Essay Definition and Purpose

What is an explanatory essay? It is a piece of writing, purpose of which is to inform, explain, or describe, rather than argue or persuade. When completing an explanatory essay, students should present information or arguments of other people impartially, allowing readers make their own conclusions, rather than persuading them to agree or disagree with some point of view. Explain ideas is actually a daily occurrence, as people often exchange informative e-mail messages and texts. Still, composing in a neutral tone and not convincing readers to pick a side may turn out challenging because of temptation to share one’s own evaluation and perspective. 

Overall, an explanatory essay is a formal piece, and there are specific demands to its structure and content that students should address to meet expectations of their teachers. It is important to clarify that this type is also known as informative or expository essay, so if your teacher asked completing one of these, incorporate following essay & outline samples.

Read also: What is Cause and Effect Essay? Definition, Rules, Examples

Explanatory Essay

Explanatory Essay Outline Structure

Every student should know how to start an explanatory essay. The length and complexity of your explanatory essay often depend on complexity of chosen topic. Similarly, form of informative writing may change depending on purpose. Still, if you attend high school or a local college, masterful usage of a standard five-paragraph structure for an A grade. Benefits of such structure are quite obvious: while being pretty simple to compose, a five-paragraph organization is coherent and easy while following. With this in mind, use following explanatory essay outline when composing your informative piece:

1) Introduction
       a. Interesting lead or hook
       b. Thesis statement
2) First Body Paragraph
       a. Topic sentence – Main idea #1
       b. 3-4 supporting details for main idea #1
       c. Concluding sentence/transition
3) Second Body Paragraph
       a. Topic sentence – Main idea #2
       b. 3-4 supporting details for main idea #2
       c. Concluding sentence/transition
4) Third Body Paragraph
       a. Topic sentence – Main idea #3
       b. 3-4 supporting details for main idea #3
       c. Concluding sentence
5) Conclusion
       a. Summary of main ideas
       b. Thesis statement, repeated in other words

Read also: How to Write a Conclusion in a Few Steps

This simple outline can be used as a basis for a more complicated explanatory paper as well. But you should keep in mind that the more challenging your topic is, the more complex your thesis statement becomes. Similarly, it may be necessary to increase number of body paragraphs to explain more aspects of topic under exploration. When adding paragraphs, don’t forget about maximum word count, as professors often disregard content that exceeds it. EduBirdie has developed a free word counter tool to make it easier for you to control length of paper.

Essay Introduction Ideas

If you are into writing an excellent explanatory paper, you should find some spare time and organize your process. When deciding on exact amount of time to devote to writing, consider following important stages of writing that should be included:

               Stage 1. Pre-Writing or Brainstorming

Often, professors assign specific topics for exploration, but if you should choose topic on your own, do it beforehand. Brainstorm and put down some facts that you know about topic.

               Stage 2. Research

Do research and find additional information that explains your chosen topic better. Examine topic from different angles and list down as many facts as possible.

               Stage 3. Outline

Fill in outline presented above. To apply sample outline effectively, start with reflecting on collected information and composing a thesis statement. While systematizing facts you have found by uniting them under several major ideas and use ideas and supporting facts to compose each body paragraph. Think of interesting approaches for proper organization of your concluding paragraph.

               Stage 4. Writing

Write an explanatory essay using information you have systematized. To complete this stage successfully, consider some useful tips that follow.

               Stage 5. Post-Writing or Proofreading

While writing explanatory essay, you’ve probably re-read each sentence several times. Despite this fact, text is still likely to contain errors. Indeed, it is so easy to misspell a word or wrong punctuation, when you are in a hurry to write down thoughts that may disappear because of the smallest distraction. For your convenience, EduBirdie created a free online grammar check. It helps you improve your explanatory essay and save some time, as proofreading is quite time-consuming.

At this stage, you should also make sure that your explanatory essay format meets professor’s requirements. You should properly cite all the information borrowed from sources using requested documentation style (MLA, APA, or other) in order to avoid possible plagiarism accusations.

Read also: Illustration Paper Guide: Definition, Outline, Topics

Useful Tips for Successful Essay 

Here are some tips you may incorporate to write perfectly:

Tip 1. Explanatory essay introduction needs a strong hook to attract readers’ attention.

Use one of the following hooks to develop an intriguing introduction: 

  • A quote, proverb, or saying;
  • A description;
  • A bold opinion;
  • A statistic;
  • An unusual fact;
  • A question.

Tip 2. Use different kinds of supporting details to explain topic in the best possible manner.

Present relevant points on topic by referring to:

  • Quotes;
  • Interesting facts;
  • Anecdotes;
  • Descriptions;
  • Statistical data.

Tip 3. Use transitional phrases to move smoothly from one idea to another.

Use following transitional phrases to make your explanatory essay more coherent: 

  • To begin with
  • At this point
  • Next
  • Finally 
  • For example/instance
  • For this reason
  • As a result
  • Therefore
  • Despite this
  • However
  • On the other hand
  • In the same way
  • In addition to
  • Similarly
  • Finally

This list is not exhaustive, and you may use plenty of other transitional words and phrases to show links between presented pieces of information.

Tip 4. Make your conclusion interesting.

In the concluding paragraph, think of including a summary of central ideas, but it is good to present these ideas in an interesting way. Here are some techniques for you to use:

  • A description
  • An anecdote
  • A series of questions

It is also important to repeat thesis statement again; however, it should be rephrased.

Explanatory Essay Example with Explanation

Perks of Living in the United States

The United States is the best country in the world in which to live. [bold fact] Thousands of immigrants come to the USA each year and start a new better life here. [statistic] People enjoy living in this country because here they succeed in business, give good education to their children, and improve their quality of life due to advanced healthcare services. [thesis statement that illustrates three main ideas]

Without a doubt, the USA is one of the best countries for people who wish to run their own businesses. [topic sentence – main idea 1] It is easy to start a venture here because entrepreneurs can register their businesses online. [supporting detail 1] Workforce in this country includes alumni of the most prestigious colleges in the world, which means that the USA businesses can hire the best professionals. [supporting detail 2] Furthermore, the GDP is constantly growing. [supporting detail 3] This suggests that the economy is performing well, and people can afford to spend money on various goods. Despite taxes, people can easily become successful entrepreneurs, and the money they earn contribute to the standard of living of future generations. [concluding sentence]

Many people decide to immigrate to the USA specifically because of education-related opportunities. This country is home to the best colleges in the world, which are known as the Ivy League. Graduates of these colleges are likely to succeed, as businesses compete to hire them. Education is not cheap in the USA. Still, students can apply for various scholarships, which cover costs either partially or completely. Even those who pay for their education eventually win, because good education pays off with good employment opportunities and corresponding benefits, including health insurance.

Finally, the USA is a good country to live in because of quality healthcare each citizen can enjoy. Americans are the first to access the newest advances in medicine, particularly medical products and procedures, as country holds a leading position in investments into biotechnology and research and development. Healthcare services are of high quality in the USA because numerous providers often compete for the patients. Although medical services are costly, most citizens have health insurances that cover the expenses.

How about business, education, and healthcare in other countries? How many other states benefit their citizens in all three aspects? Isn’t it better to move to the US instead of sacrificing one of these important components of life? When choosing the country based on business and education opportunities, as well as healthcare services quality, the USA is worth considering.

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What is an explanatory essay? How to structure it and how to present information coherently? Which steps to follow to write explanatory papers like a pro? Now you know answers to these questions and use this knowledge to boost your writing skills.

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