Rhetoric and Composition/Exposition

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What is Exposition Writing?

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Exposition can be either oral or written. It is used to explain, interpret, inform, or describe. An expository writer must assume that the audience has no prior knowledge regarding the topic being discussed. So the topic must be written in a clear manner explaining how things work (you can however, leave out common knowledge--you probably are not writing for first graders).

As most academic terms, exposition can acquire various definitions depending on the context in which a writer is using the word. The HarperCollins Collins English Dictionary defines exposition in seven different disciplinary contexts.

1. Within the Communication Arts / Journalism & Publishing discipline, exposition is defined as: a systematic, usually written statement about, commentary on, or explanation of a specific subject

2. The act of expounding of setting forth information or a viewpoint

3. (Business / Commerce) of a large public exhibition, especially of industrial products or arts and crafts

4. The act of exposing or the state of being exposed

5. (Performing Arts / Theatre) the part of a play, novel, etc., in which the theme and main characters are introduced.

6. (Music / Classical Music) Music the first statement of the subjects or themes of a movement in sonata form or a fugue

7. (Christianity / Roman Catholic Church) RC Church the exhibiting of the consecrated Eucharistic Host or a relic for public veneration (Harper Collins Dictionary)

Types of Exposition

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  • Description - The author explains a particular topic by showing characteristics, features, and examples.
  • Comparison - The author shows how two or more topics are alike.
  • Contrast - The author shows how two or more topics are different.
  • Cause and Effect - The author demonstrates the cause while showing the effects of the cause.
  • Problem and Solution - The author explains a problem, then explores possible solutions.
  • Analytical - The author evaluates a topic or argument revealing its strengths and weaknesses.
  • Classification - The author sorts things into useful categories, makes sure all the categories follow a single organizing principle, and gives examples that fit into each category.
  • Sequence - The author lists items or events in numerical or chronological order.

Where Do I Begin?

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Find a Topic and Research

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First you must find a specific aspect of a topic that would interest you. You will have to research the topic extensively so that you can explain it—what exposition is all about. Research your topic extensively. You will probably have to spend quite a bit of time, but remember that the researching can be exciting. The general initial researching may even provide some valuable information that you want to explain. Researching is like exercising: at first it hurts, but with time you become stronger and it's easier to flex your researching muscles. After you have decided upon a topic, you can create a thesis.

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An expositional paper is most easily written when you have a "tight" thesis. This means that the focus of your topic is extremely specific. When your thesis is concise, you can write at length because you know exactly what you should be writing about. But when you have a sloppy, vague thesis, you can become lost and your writing reflects this. This goes back to choosing a topic focus that deals with something specific, and not overly general. A thesis makes a claim regarding your focus and is supported by details and facts. It is written in one or two complete sentences. An example of a thesis would be: “Gardening can be a rewarding hobby because of the creativity involved, the variety of plants, and the many uses of plants.”

Create a Sketchy Outline

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After you write your thesis, create a sketchy outline so that you have a game plan for your paper. Your outline should have information that you want to include for each part of your thesis. For our thesis example, we could find lots of information that could support the different parts of gardening. Notice the word could--just because we have the information doesn't mean we must use it in the paper. This is a rough outline after all.

Start Writing

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Too often we don’t begin writing because we are stuck—don’t be, just start writing. You can begin anywhere. Start writing where you feel the most comfortable. When you have your outline, as sketchy as it may be, it reminds you of ideas that you want to include in your paper. Remember though that readers are interested in what YOU have to say—they don’t want to read regurgitated quotes and opinions of others, so make sure that your point is being heard.


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The structure of an expository piece consists of first an introduction that contains the most crucial element—the thesis—the main point you wish to convey. After the introduction is the body, in which you clarify the different aspects of the thesis in great detail. The final piece, the conclusion, restates and rephrases (using different words) the thesis and ties up any “loose ends”.


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The very first part of your introduction should have an attention-grabbing device (a hook) to engage your readers. Hooks can be statistics, facts, questions, or unusual details. Don't make general statements such as "it is clear that..." because you are trying to explain something that perhaps your reader doesn't know, so it would not be clear to them. Instead be informative. The introduction will also contain your thesis. Good topic referring to Rhetoric. One can check it at the essays writing companies and already written essays accomplished by writing service writers.

Now that you have your specific thesis, along with your sketchy outline, you must support your thesis claim by using concrete evidence and examples. You should exfoliate your thesis. Remember that expositional writing assumes that your readers have no prior knowledge regarding your topic, so you must explain things very clearly. Parallelism can be very important in your paper. It can give the readers a feeling of structure and importance. Pick a method of organization and stick with it.

In our example, we would explain in detail how much creativity is involved in gardening. We could write about the style of impressive European or Oriental gardens. Next, we would show how there are a variety of plants. We could write about plants found in different climates. Finally, we would explain the many uses of plants. We could write about floral bouquets and vegetables.

Because exposition’s purpose is to inform, you will want to establish common ground with your readers. You should write objectively, which will fulfill the purpose of explaining things.


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A conclusion wraps up your paper by recalling your main points, but do not use the identical words that you used in your introduction. Conclusions and introductions are like frames, they should tie your whole paper together. You should explain your main points briefly and freshly. Don't be sloppy--this is the last impression you are making.

Sample Exposition Assignments

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Here are some sample assignments to prepare you for a real exposition paper or essay. Remember that your audience has very little previous knowledge of your topic!

Sample Exposition Essay

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Assignment: Explain an aspect of cellular phones.

Why Is This Good?

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First the introduction, a surprising and interesting quote, immediately catches your attention since it equalizes words and drugs. The introduction has a tight thesis, “The cell phone has revolutionized the way that the world communicates with each other and spreads the good word.”

The body explains the revolution of cell phones. Notice how the writer clearly defined what a phone line is and how it works. The writer transitions into another topic by asking a question, “How does a cell phone work if it is not connected to the phone lines?” Asking questions is an easy rhetorical device that can make your paper flow more smoothly.

Finally, this conclusion ties together the paper since it recalls the main themes. By using different words, the conclusion is fresh and not predictable. It is future looking. “It is a very powerful tool for getting our words around, and it will take us places in the future that we have never dreamed of.”

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Narration · Evaluation