What Is the Difference Between Narrative and Expository Essay?
When facing a task of writing a narrative or expository essay, the first thing you should do is understand the difference between these types of papers.
Narrative Essays: Tell a Story
In simple terms, a narrative essay is a story meant to entertain the readers. This writing style is extremely versatile, because it has almost no limitations. Every piece of fiction out there is an example of a narrative essay.
However, this doesn’t mean that these stories are purely fictional. If the author tells a story based on personal experience or historical facts, it will still be considered a narrative essay, as long as the work complies with the essential requirements that pertain to this style of writing. They are:
- Switching between points of view of different characters (optional)
- Combination of concrete and abstract language
- No definite chronology of events, flashbacks, etc. (optional)
- Abundance of personal pronouns
- Simple structure common for fiction stories (setting, characters, conflict, plot, resolution)
- When you are writing a narrative essay on some particular subject, the story should be centered on it without deviating to other areas.
Expository Essays: Inform and Explain
There is no room for fiction and descriptive literary tools in expository essays. These papers are fine examples of informative articles and instructions.
The style of expository essays is concise and simple. All in all, an author should aim to make the essay as clear as possible and edit it in order to remove all information that isn’t strictly necessary.
The most common examples of expository essays are:
- Directions, scientific articles and other texts that follow the cause-effect structure.
- Recipes, biographies, history texts that follow some definite chronology.
- Speeches (mostly political) and other types of texts that are based on the pros versus cons structure.
- Some newspaper articles that provide detailed descriptions of events.
- Medical and scientific texts that follow the problem-solution structure.
- Speeches for debates and other events that are based on the position-reason structure.
In general, expository essays can be characterized by lack of descriptive elements and simple structure. They must be based on facts and require extensive research of the subject.
The core difference between narrative and expository essays is their style. While narrative paper allows the author to be creative and tell a story in a way he or she likes, expository essays follow some strict rules that one must abide.
Narrative texts are versatile in structure and style, but they also require some thorough research of the subject.
The Modes of Discourse—Exposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)—are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these approaches and students’ need to understand and produce them.
Contributors: Jack Baker, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli
Last Edited: 2013-03-11 10:04:15
What is an expository essay?
The expository essay is a genre of essay that requires the student to investigate an idea, evaluate evidence, expound on the idea, and set forth an argument concerning that idea in a clear and concise manner. This can be accomplished through comparison and contrast, definition, example, the analysis of cause and effect, etc.
Please note: This genre is commonly assigned as a tool for classroom evaluation and is often found in various exam formats.
The structure of the expository essay is held together by the following.
- A clear, concise, and defined thesis statement that occurs in the first paragraph of the essay.
It is essential that this thesis statement be appropriately narrowed to follow the guidelines set forth in the assignment. If the student does not master this portion of the essay, it will be quite difficult to compose an effective or persuasive essay.
- Clear and logical transitions between the introduction, body, and conclusion.
Transitions are the mortar that holds the foundation of the essay together. Without logical progression of thought, the reader is unable to follow the essay’s argument, and the structure will collapse.
- Body paragraphs that include evidential support.
Each paragraph should be limited to the exposition of one general idea. This will allow for clarity and direction throughout the essay. What is more, such conciseness creates an ease of readability for one’s audience. It is important to note that each paragraph in the body of the essay must have some logical connection to the thesis statement in the opening paragraph.
- Evidential support (whether factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal).
Often times, students are required to write expository essays with little or no preparation; therefore, such essays do not typically allow for a great deal of statistical or factual evidence.
Though creativity and artfulness are not always associated with essay writing, it is an art form nonetheless. Try not to get stuck on the formulaic nature of expository writing at the expense of writing something interesting. Remember, though you may not be crafting the next great novel, you are attempting to leave a lasting impression on the people evaluating your essay.
- A conclusion that does not simply restate the thesis, but readdresses it in light of the evidence provided.
It is at this point of the essay that students will inevitably begin to struggle. This is the portion of the essay that will leave the most immediate impression on the mind of the reader. Therefore, it must be effective and logical. Do not introduce any new information into the conclusion; rather, synthesize and come to a conclusion concerning the information presented in the body of the essay.
A complete argument
Perhaps it is helpful to think of an essay in terms of a conversation or debate with a classmate. If I were to discuss the cause of the Great Depression and its current effect on those who lived through the tumultuous time, there would be a beginning, middle, and end to the conversation. In fact, if I were to end the exposition in the middle of my second point, questions would arise concerning the current effects on those who lived through the Depression. Therefore, the expository essay must be complete, and logically so, leaving no doubt as to its intent or argument.
The five-paragraph Essay
A common method for writing an expository essay is the five-paragraph approach. This is, however, by no means the only formula for writing such essays. If it sounds straightforward, that is because it is; in fact, the method consists of:
- an introductory paragraph
- three evidentiary body paragraphs
- a conclusion