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Welcome to Expository Prose Writing, Page 2


—We are as much as we see. Faith is sight and knowledge. The hands only serve the eyes.

From Journal, 1841 by Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau

At the right, one of the great essayists of all time, Henry David Thoreau.

expository prose writing—what is it?

The Muse Of Language Arts holds the opinion that expository prose is a particular literary form or structure which appears in a number of specific genres and writing styles.

As with many other literary concepts, however, literary scholars, critics, and savants subscribe to a variety of different practices and opinions concerning the nature and number of expository writing forms, genres, and styles. This is not surprising, as ambiguity and vagary about literary definitions abound; and terminology varies all over the place.

Some experts claim that there's only a single kind of expository writing, while others declare that several expositional forms exist. They disagree with each other as to what their literary properties are, how many types there are, or what to call them.

Here's another example: almost everybody who ought to know agrees that a literary form called the essay (or as it's sometimes called the expository essay or argumentative prose) is a specific instance of expository prose writing. But some cognoscenti  believe that there's just one type of essay while others define multiple types, each being its own unique form of literary exposition. Many who define just one type call this single literary form an expository essay, but others give it different names, or they apply names inconsistently.

If issues like these can arise in connection with so common an expository form as the essay, which virtually everyone agrees about, there should little surprise that issues about essays can also spring from other connections.

Here's one of them. Most literati assign the name article to describe certain kinds of features published in newspapers and magazines; and further, they agree that the things editors, newsmen, and readers call articles are actually certain kinds of essays when seen from a literary point of view. But some literati think of articles as different and unique literary forms unto themselves, not as essays.

Here are a few of the questions about newspaper articles that experts with divergent views raise for your consideration:

  • Are news articles literary forms or something else?
  • Are all news articles the same kinds of literature or are there different kinds?
  • If different kinds of news articles are literary forms, what names should we give them?
  • Are some kinds of news articles literary forms and other kinds of articles not literary forms?
  • Are articles really essays or something else?
  • If news articles are different kinds of essay, what kinds of essays are they?
  • If articles are essays, are different kinds of news articles all the same kind of essay or are they different kinds of essay?

Of course, the answers depend partly on one's view of what expository writing is. Is expository prose writing is a literary form or something else? If it's a literary form, is it one unique literary super-form or does it have sub-forms? One literary specialist has identified as many as eleven different expository essay sub-forms alone, while another has described additional logical literary sub-structures that are possible for essays. Are these proposals correct? Are the categorizations, definitions, and names for these sub-structures valid? Or should these concepts be modified or discarded altogether?

By now it should be evident that the precise nature of expository prose writing is subject to a wide variety of opinions and points of view.

Questions and issues not only arise in connection with expository prose writing and essays; they apply to many other aspects of expository writing. One of these aspects is the precise nature of expository writing itself. What is expository writing? Is it really a literary form, as most experts claim? Or is it a style of writing or a literary genre.

Some who accept the notion that exposition is a writing style believe that there's only one such style; they believe that all expository works are written in this style. And again, names for this style vary according to the expert, even though the expository style means the same thing to all of them.

Others believe that actually there are different expository writing styles, not just one. Some refer to all the styles by the same name, even though they are not the same thing; they call all of them expository prose or something similar. Others use different names for the different styles, but don't agree on what each of the styles should be called.

To make matters even worse, experts don't always agree on the factors or categories that should distinguish one expository prose writing style from another. Some use factors such as a work's title, type-name, appearance, page layout and cover design, function, or purpose. Others use factors such as school reports, book reports, text books, and term papers.

Some experts lump works with very similar titles, type-names, physical appearance, page layout, cover design, or functions or purposes into closely related groups; then they classify each group into a different kind of exposition and name it. For instance, they might combine theses with dissertations, book reports with homework, and procedure manuals with use and care books, thereby creating three unique categories of exposition.

expository prose writing—what is it really?

Do you feel that you now have a complete and accurate understanding of the nature of expository writing? Are you in a position to maintain a safe and steady distance between yourself and all the murmuring and disquieting disagreements cited in the previous section? Can you write your own well-formed expository prose and get the most from the writings of others?...Then you may want to shake you head until your eyes clear, and skip this section.

On the other hand, are you confused? Do the messy ambiguities, vagaries, and literary issues cited in the previous section leave you wandering, wondering, and bleary eyed? Are you ready and willing to directly confront the actual nature of expository prose writing?

If so, and if you're willing to dig in here, in this section, you may run across a few simple ideas that will help you get straight.


What is expository prose writing—really?

Expository prose writing, also referred to here as exposition, is a combination of four things:

  1. A family of interrelated prose writing styles.
  2. A collection of literary forms.
  3. A collection of literary genres.
  4. A body of written works.

The Muse explains these four components of expository prose writing and describes their interrelationships in the pages that follow. The Muse begins the exploration of thee four aspects of expository prose with the subject of writing style and how writing styles work in expository prose writing. The Muse continues by exploring form, genre, and bodies of expository works on subsequent pages.

writing styles—what are they?

What are these superior ways for forming word patterns when a work's primary purpose is to expose facts? What are the associated literary and linguistic properties that these patterns generate? To answer these questions is to describe and explain the expository prose style of writing.

Before answering these questions for expository prose, it's first necessary to describe the nature of writing styles generally.

Any kind of style is a particular sort, type, form, appearance or character; it's a distinctive mode of action, tone, or construction.

A writing style is a particular kind of style or way of constructing words into patterns. It's the sum total of all the features of a written composition that determine its manner of expression rather than its content or the thoughts that it expresses. As a process, it's a mode or method for exposing information by selecting and arranging written words in ways that are characteristic of an agency, group, period, person, personality, way of thinking, or anything else capable of possessing a characteristic.

A writing style is not just the property of a given work; it's also a writing system, a collection of writing techniques, and a methodology. Thus, a writing style is a concept or abstraction rather than a physical thing.

A given writing style is a particular way of expressing thoughts and feelings in writing; it's a method or system for selecting and arranging words into groups that are clear, effective, have pleasing sounds, appropriate vocabularies, dictions, accents, inflections, and exhibit other literary and linguistic properties of this kind.

Obviously, there are a huge variety of different options for selecting words and arranging them into consistent, coherent word patterns, patterns that stick together. In some cases, alternate arrangements (styles) can be equally suitable for achieving the same or similar results if they share similar literary and linguistic properties. In cases like thesewhen optional arrangements share similar literary and linguistic propertiessome optional writing styles have been grouped into a single style family.

A group of compositions, all written with the same or similar writing styles, may collectively comprise an entire body of literature belonging to that style.

how writing styles function and why they work—text and subtext

Content and style are two different things:

  • The essence of a composition's content is the topics it covers, the information it contains, and what its information signifies.
  • The essence of a writing style lies elsewhere, with the characteristic words and word patterns by which ideas, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and tones are imparted.

The choice of words and word patterns in a sentence or paragraph are best understood as a two-fold expression: 1) an explicit statement, and 2) an implicit statement.

The vocabulary and grammar of the explicit statement serve to express the literal semantic information content and to convey its semantic overtones. The stylistic literary and linguistic elements of the individual words and word patterns function as a subtext that suggests additional underlying or implicit meanings, feelings, and messages.

These implicit meanings, feelings, and messages are over, above, and apart from the literal meanings conveyed by the words and their patterns—they are its subtext.

The literary and linguistic elements that an author systematically applies to create this subtext are what we call a writing style.

When understood as a subtext, it's clear that the particular selection and arrangement of words in a sentence or paragraph (style) must perform two simultaneous functions: it must convey meaningful explicit content while at the same time conveying implicit meanings, feelings, and messages that are expressed by means of its style.

how writing styles function and why they work—coherence

Coherence is a vital property of any literary composition, and it has an especially vital role to play in expositional compositions.

By coherent, The Muse means logically connected, organized, and consistentsticking together. If a composition sticks together, it exhibits a natural, harmonious, or due agreement among its parts.

Coherence is a property displayed by every written literary work; without it, a composition is a little more than a heterogeneous mixture, hodgepodge, jumble, conglomeration, or muddle; it's a mess. The term incoherent composition is an oxymoron; a written work that's incoherent is not a composition.

Authors achieve coherence by means of a number of techniques, one of the most visible of which is writing with a consistent writing style.

A writing style is an orderly arrangement of consistent word patterns. The parts that a given style logically interconnects—that cohere or stick together—are its words, phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs, and other such textual passages. Since words and word patterns like these express ideas, images, sounds, emotions, perceptions, etc, literary and linguistic elements and other parts like these also are part of a style.

A work's writing style is the overall coherent effect that results from its author's consistent application of word patterns.

Different styles serve different literary purposes and produce different affects on readers. For example, a style that's appropriate for a (fictional) novel is not likely to be suitable for a (nonfictional) historical treatise. As a result, different classes of literary works tend to incorporate different writing styles, those that help them achieve their literary objectives.

why style matters

Just as it's possible for alternate sequences of words to express the same literal or explicit information content, so is it possible for alternate sequences to express the same stylistic subtexts. This fact is what allows authors to write sentences and paragraphs that make semantic statements and at the same time express styles.

A given writing style is a particular mode, manner or form for expressing thoughts and feelings by selecting words and arranging word patterns in certain special ways, while at the same time expressing their content; it's a consistent system for using sequences or patterns of words to express information, where the subtext delineates their meanings and shades of meaning.

To see how big a difference word patterns can make in a written composition, imagine that you're setting out to reproduce a Faulkner novelto copy it to paper. But instead of copying every word and every line, one after the other in their original Faulknerean sequences, suppose instead that you decide to calculate the novel's word-occurrence statistics.

Here's what you might do: While you read the novel, you write each new word on a piece of paper dedicated to recording each occurrence of that word, and that word alone. You'll accumulate hundreds of sheets of paper, one for each different word Faulkner used in the novel, with that word written probably hundreds or thousands of times on most pages.

By the time you reach the novel's end, you know Faulkner's vocabulary in its entirety. You count the number of words on each page, which tells you exactly how many times Faulkner wrote each different word in his vocabulary. And you add the total number of words on each page to the number on all other pages, which tells you exactly how many words he used to complete his novel.

By one reckoning, you now have all the information you need to reproduce Faulkner's novel—the right vocabulary and the count for how many times he used each word; but just try using that knowledge to replicate it...try copying each of the words from your lists onto a stack of blank paper, and make sure to enter each different word the same number of times that Faulkner did.

You'd be up a creek, wouldn't you? Without knowing the sequences of the words in the novel, at random you might be able to compose a few sentences that make sense, but you wouldn't be able to duplicate more than a handful of Faulkner's actual sentences except by accident, or from memory. Even if they made sense in small groups by themselves, your words, sentences, and paragraphs would be spotty and out of order; they wouldn't make sense, advance action, or develop thought together.

If you actually attempt this exercise—and The Muse advises you not to try, even if you just intend to analyze a page or two from a Faulkner novel—you surely will fail. The reason? Although single words or small groups of words are sufficient to capture single thoughts, they are inadequate by themselves to capture full and complete thoughts. Only patterns of words can capture and express the full and complete range of ideas, thoughts, feelings, tones, innuendos, and subtleties that language and and literary elements can express; only patterns can express the subtext that accompanies the content.

For comparison, how long would it take a thousand monkeys to type all of Shakespeare's plays?

Even if it were possible for a thousand monkeys to randomly type all of Shakespeare's words onto paper in the right order a finite length of time, their accomplishment would be empty because Shakespeare's word patterns—his styles—would still be wanting.

about personal and group writing styles

Faulkner is known for his own experimental style, with its meticulous attention to diction and cadence. His sentences frequently sound different from those of most other authors when read aloud.

Also, he often composed highly emotional, subtle, cerebral, complex, and sometimes even Gothic or grotesque stories about a wide variety of characters, including former slaves or descendants of slaves, poor white, agrarian, or working-class Southerners, and Southern aristocrats.

And he made frequent use of the stream of consciousness technique in his writing. In great measure, Faulkner's brilliant use of language is the result of the original way he employs words and word patterns that display linguistic and literary methods and modes of his own devising or adaptation.

In part, Faulkner's novels are safe from plagiarism because they're products of his unique, personal history and his distinctive writing style. Even if another author were brave enough and and talented enough to venture copying the ways Faulkner uses words, he would be foolish to attempt it; he probably would be accused of plagiarism.

As with Faulkner, most other authors seek to infuse their works with a particular writing style of their own and make the style evident to readers. To create an individualistic writing style, they tend to chose their own peculiar combinations of personally identifiable linguistic and literary elements that will distinguish them from other writers.

They choose from literary and linguistic elements such as grammatical voice, vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure, pacing, diction, connotation, denotation, punctuation, cliché, figure of speech, trope, dialogue, point of view, word color, word sound, sequencing, tropes, character development, tone, attitude, textual organization, form, genre, page layout—and many, many more.

A writing style is not just an attribute of a particular writer; it's also an attribute of a work. Authors frequently find it necessary to adapt their unique writing style to suit the needs and objectives of the specific composition at hand. Competent authors are ready and willing to imbue each new work with a style that's appropriate for its form, genre, and other properties.

As for authors, a specific work's writing style emerges from its individual linguistic and language elements and the collection of word patterns they form. The writing style for a particular work profoundly affects and reflects its nature, artistic and aesthetic qualities, caliber, and the affect it has on readers.

For example, differences in literary and language styles like the ones just cited account for much of what makes a classic Greek tragedy appear different from a Broadway play; they help explain why a high school or college book report doesn't impress a teacher in the same way that a doctoral thesis does.

Not only can a writing style be the attribute of a given work; it also can be a system or methodology available to all professional writers or to the public at large.

There are many different and accepted standard writing styles and ways to distinguish one standard style of writing from another. Some standard writing styles are characteristic of creative groups such as literary movements, periods, genres, or bodies of literature; others are characteristic of individual authors, of intimate partnerships, or of a small number of independent authors working apart.

Most importantly in this context, some kinds of written works—some forms or genres of writing—display writing styles that are characteristic of themselves or of the authors who specialize in them. Expository prose is one of these.


A writing style is an author's sine qua non. With or without forethought, whether by design or subconsciously, writers select a style before putting pen to paper, even if that means they must revise their preliminary choice of style later. Otherwise, they would find themselves unable to compose so much as the very first phrase.

Authorship and writing style are virtually the same thing; you can't have one without the other. That's because all writing consists of two or more words arranged in a grammatical construction and acting as a unit; and the first two or more words comprise the initial fragmentary pattern of a style.

the Expository prose writing style

As noted above, a writing style is a specific, consistently applied collection of word patterns that together imbue a composition with a subtext that conveys meaningful explicit content while at the same time conveying implicit meanings, feelings, and messages that project an overall coherent effect.

Different styles serve different literary purposes and have different effects on readers. What are the purposes and effects of the expository prose writing style?

The expository prose writing style is a specific and distinctive set of literary and linguistic elements that govern the selection and connection of words into patterns calculated to optimize the exposition of facts and information about facts.

Said differently: the expository prose writing style is a particular way of organizing groups of words that together optimize factual exposition and communication; it's distinctive sets of word patterns with literary and linguistic properties that authors use when they write expository prose.

In fact, the expository prose writing style is not just a single style of writing; it's actually a family or set of different (but closely related) writing styles that share similar literary and linguistic characteristics, all aimed at promoting exposition. Some of these characteristics are unique to expository prosethey distinguish it from other stylistic families—while others are not.

What are the literary and linguistic characteristics that make expository prose styles more effective at exposing facts than other styles? What are the literary and linguistic characteristics that make them unique?

We begin with prose.

What's prose?

Prose is one of the most fundamental and essential linguistic elements of the expository prose style; at the same time, it's one of the most common forms of spoken or written language there is, a way of communicating that appears in one non-expository style after another.

Prose is the ordinary form of spoken or written language, without metrical structure. Stated simply, prose is writing or speech that isn't poetry or verse.

What is prose? Prose has many forms, shapes, and qualities:

When prose is spoken aloud, it usually sounds like something you're probably accustomed to hearing when you converse with your family at home, or like what your friends or neighbors say to each other when they get together for coffee.

But when conversational prose is copied to paper, the true nature of everyday prose comes to light. It doesn't resemble well-formed writing at all. The written version of a spoken conversation typically looks irregular, broken, and random on the page, more like the transcription of an ordinary conversation than like a formally constructed piece of writing—like something a courtroom stenographer might have keyed into a steno machine.

It may have seemed regular and coherent during the get together, but afterward it's often choppy and semi-coherent. People step on each other's lines or omit words of phrases altogether. transcribed on paper, a conversation does not read like it sounded aloud; it's not usually what it seemed to be at the time it took place.

Unlike the prose heard in speech, however, in the hands of a competent prose writer, a composed prose piece can be sparkling, well organized, and clear as a bell. Even ordinary conversation can appear orderly and natural when it's written like this.

This phenomenon demonstrates why authors who construct conversations between fictional characters don't try to simulate actual speech; if they did, the words they put in the mouths of their characters would seem like gibberish. Instead, they write forms of conversation are that are clearer and more understandable than actual ordinary speechunless, of course, their goal is to make their characters seem like they're talking naturally.

Ordinary prose has many strengths, as well as weaknesses. It's extremely versatile, expressive, and adept at reflecting not only what people mean to say, but also how they feel about what they're saying. It seems to come naturally to people, as if it's the result of a verbal faculty wired into the brain.

Because of its many strengths, ordinary prose is a style of speaking and writing that occurs in one language after another around the world; it's a style of speaking and writing that's employed more, and by more people than any other. Although universally accepted, however, ordinary prose is not the only style of writing there is, by any means. Numerous other prose styles also are in widespread use, and the expository prose writing style is just one of them.

What's different and special about the prose in expository prose?

As you might expect from the fact that ordinary prose and expository prose go by the same name (prose), ordinary prose and expository prose are two styles of writing that have a lot in common.

Nevertheless, they also have much that distinguishes them from each other. Properly composed expository prose exhibits none of ordinary prose's conversational weaknesses and most of its strengths; it's is a unique style of writing unlike any other prose writing style.

Literati use words like expositional writing or expository prose to refer to expository prose writing partly because the term exposition calls attention to the fact that it's a special kind of writing, one that's dedicated to exposition, and partly because it differs from other kinds of prose writing for this reason.

How does it differ? How is it special? Here are just a few examples:

  • It's literary forms and genres consist of combinations of literary elements that do not appear in other forms of prose writing.
  • The close interactions between its literary elements help catalyze it; they enable it to more effectively express, describe, and convey facts and information about facts.
  • It's compositions exhibit consistent structures.
  • It never rambles.
  • The same word patterns are consistently employed throughout.

Expository prose writing also is special because it's nonfictional. The fiction branch of literature, for example, uses prose to tell stories which offer opinions or conjectures upon facts and reality, not just to convey the facts themselves. In contrast, expository prose is nonfictional because it's only purpose is to describe and convey true facts and information about facts; it tells the truth and nothing but the truth. By comparison, ordinary prose tells the truth, but often lies.

Next: expository prose is special because it's a more formal style of communication, one that evolved after a long period of experimentation aimed at finding the best way to expose and convey facts...hence the term expository. It's a style of writing that follows its own linguistic rules and principles, rules designed to foster its primary purpose. Unlike ordinary prose or various other kinds of prose, it's not designed to promote casual or incidental conversation.

Another important way in which expository prose differs from ordinary prose is that it's almost always written to be read, not heard. Only rarely is expository prose written in order to be read aloud. Why? Because it's almost always aimed at fostering a reader's long-lived comprehension—at concisely expressing, conveying, and preserving concrete facts for later use. But hearing is a fleeting, ephemeral faculty.

Speeches afford yet another comparison. Speeches are almost always written to be heard, not read in the silence of private rooms. Why? Because speeches usually are written to convey facts and ideas that stimulate emotions or alter opinions, outcomes better served by eye-to-eye contact that comes from one person speaking directly to another.

Together, speeches and debates provide another, very interesting sort of comparison. Strictly defined, debates are formal verbal arguments, discussions such as those occurring in a public question in an assembly that involve opposing viewpoints; or they're formal contests in which opposition speakers champion the affirmative and negative sides of a proposition.

In contrast, debates are aural contests, structured presentations governed by strict rules; their goal is to inform and convince an audience consisting of of judges and jurors. They attempt to prove their proposals by introducing hard facts and complete certainties, as well as opinions, beliefs, judgments, attitudes, appraisals, and personal viewpoints. Advocates contend facts and claims they introduce; they base their arguments and conclusions on them.

How are speeches and debates alike? Although they differ in several respects, speeches and debates accomplish almost the same thing . They're both forms of exposition. Although speeches and debates are delivered aloud and not written down the way expository prose is written, they meld many of the aspects of the expository prose writing style.

As we shall see later, in the sections on expository literary forms on Page 3, the purposes of many speeches and debates resemble those of essays.


Differences between expository prose styles and other prose styles abound; here are just a few more: Compared with most other styles of prose writing, expository prose is far more economical, to the point, less colorful, more systematic, less random or halting or hesitant, clearer and simpler and easier to interpret, more logical, better organized, more substantive and meaningful, and much more content-laden.

How to recognize expository prose when you see it

Still finding it hard to wrap your mind around a concept as abstract as a writing style? Do the preceding expository style descriptions seem vague, unspecific, or abstruse? After all you've read so far on this page, are you still unable to recognize the style of an expository prose work when you read it?

Cheer up. The literary and linguistic concepts behind expository prose are not really difficult to deal with once you get used to them. All you may need is a little extra insight or a general idea. Here are a few suggestions about how to get them.

Probably the best way to clear up your idea of what expository prose styles are all about is to read a textbook or writer's guide on the subject; or take a Teaching Company home writing course on DVD, or sign up for a course at school or a writer's seminar.

If text books or courses are too much to tackle, perhaps running down a few concrete examples of expository works would be a worthwhile alternative. Here are a few suggestions for some activities you might want to take on by yourself:

Start by looking at a few different kinds of expository works; physical items you can hold in your hands are your best choice. You can find samples of expository works like these almost anywhere: at a bookstore, library, school, on your personal bookshelf, in homework assignments, in a doctor's waiting room, on newspaper or magazine racks at airports, train stations, or in bus waiting rooms.

How can you identify expository works and distinguish them from other kinds of works? Use the general knowledge about the nature of exposition you've accumulated so far. Or if you want additional guidance, look for works bearing names or descriptions similar to those listed in the section of this feature titled Kinds Of Expository Prose Works:

  • Visit the list of expository prose works titled Examples Of Expository Prose Works now. It's located in a preceding subsection of this feature. If you've read this feature starting from Page 1, you've already come across it: click here.

The list holds names of different kinds of works that belong to expository forms and genres. Be sure to examine the note in that section that follows the list. Write down a few items on the list so you'll remember what to call them; or print Page 1 and take it with you.

Try to avoid duplicate genres when you make your choices: the note will help guide you. But don't worry if you aren't sure which ones are duplicates. At this stage, trial and error is a great teacher, and you'll learn lots even with duplicates.

Here are three things worth doing with your expository samples:

  1. First, The Muse suggests that you inspect, compare, and contrast a few different kinds of nonfiction prose works with a few fictional prose works.

    When you pick nonfictional prose works, consider histories, travelogues, autobiographies, journals, diaries, documentaries, scientific papers, technical journals, user manuals, use and care books, recipe books, user manuals, photographs, or textbooks.

    When you pick prose fiction, consider novels, short stories, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, mythology, folklore, legends, fairy tales, children's storybooks, etc.

    Examine a few of the nonfiction and fiction works you've chosen to compare inside and out. Inspect covers and flip through pages. Look for differences and similarities in physical appearance between the two kinds of works. Then look for similarities and differences in their language elements.

    Compare linguistic factors such as grammatical voice, vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure, pace, diction, connotation, denotation, punctuation, cliché, figure of speech, dialogue, point of view, word color, word sound, sequencing, tropes, character development, tone, attitude, graphic and textual organization, and anything else you can notice.

    Also consider the nonliterary, non-linguistic, and publishing properties these two different kinds of prose works have in common, such as price tag (if for sale), type style, binding, layout, graphics, dimensions, number of pages, colors, etc.

    For each nonfiction and fiction work, try to identify and name its genre. Try to identify and name its writing style. Find and identify the writing styles that the two different groups share, and those that are different. It's perfectly all right to guess.

    This exercise will give you a sense of the differences and similarities between nonfiction prose and prose fiction. Since many fictional prose works are composed with the ordinary prose style, it also will give you insight into the nature of ordinary prose and into other kinds of prose styles used by different kinds of works.


  2. Next, The Muse suggests that you inspect, compare, and contrast a few of the expository prose works, which are nonfictional, with some other kinds of nonfiction prose genres.

    When you pick expository prose works, choose from the Examples Of Expository Prose Works list.

When you pick nonfiction prose, consider autobiographies, biographies, histories, technical journal articles, use and care books, manuals, diaries, magazine articles, editorials, op-eds, procedure manuals, pamphlets, text books, and newspaper articles.

Now make the same kinds of literary and language comparisons you just made above, but this time compare your expository works with the nonfictional works you've chosen. Don't overlook the nonliterary, non-linguistic, and publishing properties these two different groups of nonfiction prose works.

Can you identify the characteristics that the different expository works have in common with each other? Can you identify their differences?

Compare the characteristics of the group of expository works with those of the group of nonfiction works. How are the two groups similar? How are the two groups different from one another?

For each expository and nonfiction work, try to identify and name its genre; try to identify and name its writing style. It's perfectly all-right to guess.

Examine each expository work in the group of expository works. Consider and compare the properties of each expository work with all the other expository works. Do the works fall into groups with similar properties? If so, try to list and name each property in each group. Then note the ones that have the same names and the ones that don't.

Does each expository group seem to describe a different writing style? If so, try to name it.

  1. If you're not already conversant with expository prose writing, don't expect to perform every step or answer every question asked in Steps 1 and 2, above. If you're still uncomfortable, try going back over the steps after you've explored the rest of this feature.

    Also, The Muse strongly suggests that you explore The Muse Of Literature's feature titled Expository Prose And The Essay to learn more; it has a lot to say about different expository prose writing literary forms and about language elements that appear in literary exposition..
  • Visit The Muse Of Literature's feature titled Expository Prose And The Essay now: click here.


Most of the words used for discussing expository prose writing have the same meanings as they do in connection with other forms of writing. You can check some of these literary terms with standard definitions by visiting The Muse Of Literature's Glossary Of Literary Terms.

  • Look for examples of standard literary terms in The Muse Of Literature's Glossary Of Literary Terms now: click here.
  • View an explanation of how to use the The Muse Of Literature's Glossary Of Literary Terms at the feature titled Literary Terminology—A Glossary Of Literary Terms: click here.

The majority of literary terms employed for exploring expository writing in this feature have the same meanings and functions as they do in other contexts, but some have meanings, twists, or nuances that are special or subtle.

The Muse recommends that you explore the terms cited here to gain a more complete understanding of the nature of literary exposition. Your exploration will give you a keener perception and appreciation of the literal and figurative meanings of some of the terms you will encounter on subsequent pages of this exploration.

objective expository writing

Objective means:

  • not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased.
  • intent upon or dealing with things external to the mind rather than with thoughts or feelings.
  • belonging to the object of thought rather than to the thinking subject (opposed to subjective).
  • of or pertaining to something that can be known with certainty.
  • of or pertaining to something that is an object or a part of an object in the real, external world or in the world of the mind.
  • existing as a part of reality independent of an observer or his line of thought.

subjective expository writing

Subjective means:

  • existing in the mind.
  • belonging to the thinking subject rather than to the object of thought (opposed to objective).
  • pertaining to or characteristics of an individual; personal; individual.
  • placing excessive emphasis on one's own moods, attitudes, opinions, etc.
  • relating to or of the nature of an object as it appears in the mind, as distinct from an object as it appears in physical reality.
  • relating to properties or specific conditions of the mind as distinguished from general or universal experience.


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