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Jonathan Swift

Welcome to Expository Prose Writing, Page 4


—May you live all the days of your life.

From Polite Conversation, dialogue I by Jonathan Swift


At the right, one of the great essayists of all time, Jonathan Swift.

how expositional works are named

Is There a Santa Claus is the title of an editorial that appeared in the September 21, 1897, edition of The Sun newspaper in New York city. This touching and sentimental newspaper article, which included the now-famous editorial reply Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, has become an indelible part of popular Christmas folklore in the United States and Canada. It remains the most reprinted editorial ever to run in any English language newspaper.

Newsman Francis Pharcellus Church wrote his famous editorial in response to a letter-to-the-editor received from a certain Miss Virginia O'Hanlon, an eight year old who'd been advised by her father to submit her question to The Sun after she asked him whether Santa Claus really exists.

The theme of Church's warmhearted response is that Santa exists in spirit, if not in the flesh. Its author's purpose was not only to bolster the little girl's morale, but to build the morale of youngsters and adults everywhere.

In his editorial, Church propounds the wholesome belief that life is beautiful and rewarding despite its setbacks and shortfalls; he sends the message that not all things worth believing can be seen with the naked eye.

Virginia on her Christmas present from Santa, a new bike

Virginia's letter to The Sun reads as follows:

Dear Editor:

I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, 'If you see it in The Sun it's so."
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

Church begins his editorial by stating his theme, supposition, and problem:

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.

Later he asserts facts that help prove his case. He writes in part:

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

He goes on, presenting additional arguments that strengthen his case:

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

He ends by stating his overall conclusion:

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

  • Read Church's entire editorial on the Newsum.org web site page titled, Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus: click here.
  • Explore the story behind the article Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus at the Wikipedia page of the same name: click here.

what's in a name?

In case you haven't already noticed, this editorial has the literary form of an essay.

As a newsman, when Church wrote Is There a Santa Claus, he no doubt thought of himself as a reporter writing an editorial, not as an essayist; but Church's reply to Virginia is just as much of an essay as it is an article. In fact, Church's article is the kind of an essay that in literary parlance is called an expository prose essay.

Church's editorial followed the literary and linguistic rules and constraints that prose essays follow: it took the form and assumed the other literary and linguistic characteristics that give essays their special effects. These rules allowed him to analyze, speculate, and interpret his narrow subject in ways that elucidated his point and helped convince his readers of its truth. The newspaper form he called an editorial enabled him to wax eloquently and address Virginia personally while still arguing the objective and subjective facts of his thesis and their merits.

In writing Is There a Santa Claus the way he did, Church was being just as much an essayist as if were a professional literary essayist who wrote about Santa. But in his mind he wasn't following any literary rules, or any rules at all. As a veteran reporter, he just knew that an editorial would be a good match for what he wanted to say, and from experience he knew how to compose one.

Expository prose essays like Church's Is There a Santa Claus editorial are just one of many different kinds of feature articles that appear in newspapers and magazines all over the world; they appear in daily or Sunday editions in different sections. They treat a variety of subjects ranging from the latest fashions in women's hats to reviews of current films in local theaters, to upcoming rock concerts at the town hall music pavilion, to scientific or educational happenings, to a hundred other kinds of current, recent, or historic events.

Almost without exception, newspaper articles like these are expository essays. They present the opinions of a publisher, editor, or reporter. Newsmen analyze, speculate, and interpret the objective and subjective facts they expose in these articles from their own personal perspective, often receiving a byline that identifies and credits them.

But news items called articles are not limited to expository prose essays. Other, different kinds of articles appear in daily and weekly newspaper features. They're about up-to-the minute subjects such as breaking news, fires, floods, weather reports, sports, politics, art, and business. They about what's happening now or about subjects of current interest.

With few exceptions, newspaper articles like these are exclusive expository prose essays. Reporters analyze, speculate, and interpret the facts they expose with an impersonal writing style and in a strictly objective, concise, accurate, and complete manner. They write about their subjects objectively even when their subjects and facts are subjective in nature.

Despite the existence of so many different kinds of articles, calling editorials articles would not have disturbed Church in the least; Church would have felt equally comfortable referring to Is There a Santa Claus as an editorial or as an article. And if asked by a literary critic or scholar, he surely would have been quick to agree that Is There a Santa Claus is an essay.

Church wouldn't have been alone. The vast majority of editors, publishers, printers and readers would heartily have agreed with how these names are defined and used.

why it pays to  Unravel the confusion over composition names

In the newspaper world, as in other writing worlds, newspapermen are clear about what to call their compositions, even when they mean different things, and even when they're called by different names. So why should those of us who are not in the news business bother to think of them as essays?

The fact that the same name actually refers to different kinds of compositions, or the fact that different names actually refer to the same kinds of compositions, is easily discerned by newspaper insiders. In the news business, there's nothing wrong with referring to the same composition or the same types of compositions by different names because their alternate names can easily be interpreted to mean the same thing or to mean different things. Neither is there anything wrong with referring to different compositions or different types of compositions by the same name. In fact, a number of benefits can derive from these practices.

Newsmen resolve ambiguity by employing a variety of contextual clues to resolve names that for the rest of us might be ambiguities: type of publication, a composition's role in an edition, its title, purpose, subject, business field, author, the news or magazine section it appears in, as well as a number of random factors such as the situation of the moment and the editor's mood when he thinks about it.

It' may be practical for people inside the news industry to employ composition names that are ambiguous for the rest of us because of their insider naming conventions, but outsiders have no such resources to fall back on. Newsmen may not be confused by naming ambiguities, but many or the rest of us are.

Are you one of these news world outsiders? Can you tell the difference between editorials and another kinds of articles?

Suppose that you're explaining Is There a Santa Claus to a friend. Would you be comfortable with describing the kind of article you were talking about? Could you explain why Is There a Santa Claus is so emotionally powerful and touching? Or would you be confused about what to say next?

Your situation might be quite different if you were to apply your literary and linguistic skills and knowhow to the task. Since you understand the general nature of expository prose, you'd probably recognize that Church's editorial is actually an expository prose essay. And knowing that Is There a Santa Claus is an expository prose essay would help you discern what Church was trying to accomplish.

Knowing the literary names and properties for the exclusive expository prose form, the expository prose essay form, and the exclusive expository prose essay might help you navigate your way past these shoals; you'd know how to make clear what Church meant and why he wrote the way he did.

But without these correct names—with ambiguous or equivocal names like article or feature—you might be up a creek.

Ambiguous and equivocal names for types of compositions not only exist in the news world, they occur in many other kinds of literature. The fact that certain kinds of compositions have more than one name and that different kinds of compositions share the same name not only holds true for editorials, articles, and essays; it holds true for other literary forms and genres as well. In particular, expository works are not immune from naming ambiguities like these.

The variety and extent of naming irregularities are especially egregious in literary exposition. In some cases, a given expository prose form and genre goes by more than one name; in other cases, a name that refers one expository form and genre also applies to another, different expository form and genre. Expository forms and genres even go so far as to share their names with non-expository forms and genres.

Even experts can make mistakes when it comes to naming expositional works. For example, an author who is a graduate student might name his scientific tract a dissertation or a thesis, while an author who is an established university researcher might name his scientific tract a journal article. Loosely speaking, tracts, dissertations, theses, and journal articles are different names for the same kind of thing—for essays.

What's wrong with using the name tract to refer to these alternate kinds of compositions? Strictly speaking, the word tract is an ambiguity. From a literary perspective, compositions dubbed with the name tract can belong to different literary forms and genres. Depending on language and literary considerations not explained here, different kinds of tracts may belong to the exclusive expository prose form or to the exclusive expository prose essay form; and dissertations and journal articles may belong to alternative expository genres.

These numerous kinds of naming ambiguities and equivocations generate a considerable amount of confusion, which in turn results in errors, oversights, and misunderstandings; but using correct literary terms for naming types of expository compositions can significantly clean up this naming mess.

Fortunately, not all names for expository prose works are ambiguous or equivocal; names for some are fairly easy to deal with. One such case occurs when the accepted poplar public name for a given type of composition is identical to its accepted literary name.

For example, a daily account or private record of a writer's own experiences, observations, feelings, and attitudes is not only called a diary by autobiographers, publishers, and private parties who make entries in personal journals; it's also called a diary by literary scholars. Scholars accept the popular public name for a personalized account even though they realize that a diary is actually a form of essay; they freely use both termsdiary and essaybecause a diary is an essay in their minds. As a consequence, most people call a diary by that name, no matter who they are.

For simple literary forms in common use like diaries, it's relatively easy to settle on a name for types of expository compositions that scholars and everyone else can agree on. But even here, the number of options for the name diary can introduce ambiguity. Diaries also bear names such as daily records, accounts, journals, daybooks, logs, or chronicles.

Further, some logs are personal accounts; other logs chronicle shipboard events; and these two kinds of logs are quite different from each other. Who's to know which name to use in all situations?

what, if anything, can be done to clear up expository composition names?

The way matters stand, confusion over the names for types of expository compositions cannot be eliminated; but it can be reduced somewhat. Here's how.

As noted above, the terms editorial, article, and essay are the names of types of works, not specific works. Is There a Santa Claus is the title of a specific editorial named Is There a Santa Claus; it's a member of classes of newspaper items named editorials, articles, and features.

To reduce confusion and misunderstanding, it may be handy to think of editorials, articles, and features as different kinds of printed works found in newspapers and magazines, not as names for particular kinds of expositions.

Instead, think of editorials, articles, and features as generic names for empty spaces or place holders on a paper page or computer screen—or think of them as future text holders reserved for works yet to come. It's only after text is supplied to fill these empty spaces that they become compositions; and it's only after they become compositions that we really know what they are and what to call them. Then, refer to them by their literary form names, for that's what they really are.

The same holds true for expositional compositions. Names for specific expositional works like use-and-care manuals or policy-and-procedure manuals are actually popular names given to these types of publications by the public, teachers, publishers, editors, corporations, sponsors, or other agencies. It's handy to think of expository compositions like these as names for classes or types of expositional publications, not as names for specific expositional works.

If confused, remember that, as with other kinds of literature, common names for expositional publications do not necessarily represent the literary forms or genres that their names suggest, even if they seem to do so at first glance. For instance, a work that one writer calls a personal log, another may call a personal account; but from a literary perspective, neither name may apply.

In many instancesfor instance, use-and-care manuals and policy-and-procedure manuals—the names actually do represent legitimate, widely accepted expositional literary forms and genres. But in general, there's no reliable way to judge solely by name whether a specific work or class of works like these adheres to the literary or linguistic rules that are mandatory for these types of expositions. They might, for instance, be new forms or genres that should have different class names.

There's not much you can do to resolve ambiguities like these. Try to use accepted literary names to denominate compositions and types of composition, but be prepared to fail. When working with expository compositions that have multiple names or with expository compositions that that share their names with non-expository works, give preference to names defined for expositional works by expositional literary sources; they're more likely to fit.

No popular naming consensus exits. Even when experts get involved, problems can arise because no universally accepted standard names exist for different kinds of expository documents. All names are, in fact, de facto ones, even names employed by scholars. Scholars don't even agree on how to define expository prose documents, let alone classify or name them.

Remember that the names for expositional forms and genres have evolved over the years. Don't look for consistency; expect ambiguity; expect names to be applied irregularity.

If in doubt, analyze works to confirm that they meet your personal standards and accepted definitions for expositional names, forms, and genres. If in doubt about a composition's actual class or correct type name, it's best to consult authoritative literary sources whom you trust, such as literature scholars, text books, or writing manuals.


names of expository prose works

Want to check a few expository names to see if they exhibit any of these kinds of problems?

  • Inspect a list of popular expository prose names at the section of this feature titled Kinds Of Expository Works: click here.

If you choose to review these names, be sure to examine the precautions cited in the note below the list. They'll supply clues to the problems they display.

about Expository poetry and expository drama

One occasionally hears actors, critics, or scholars employ terms such as expository poetry and expository drama, as if to suggest that these art forms are expositional in the same sense as expository prose writing. In reality, despite the homophones, the way in which poetry or drama expose truth and the kinds of truth they expose are quite different.

The way expository is used in connection with poetry and drama is analogous to the way the word exposition is used in connection with works like the roman à clef, the historical novel, the alternate universe, or the alternative history. Even though they're in part based on fact, creative opera like these are fictional, subjective, and imaginative narratives at core.

Expository poems are literary compositions written in verse. They are poetic (rhythmical or metrical); they aim to excite pleasure by expressing beautiful, imaginative, or elevated thoughts. Poetry couches factual information in rhetorical and aesthetic embellishments. For example:

The Alfred, Lord Tennyson poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade, is based on the true story of a tragic British cavalry charge led by Lord Cardigan against Russian forces during the Battle of Balaclava that took place on 25 October 1854 in the Crimean War. The Light Brigade, armed only with sabers, was mistakenly sent against an enemy artillery battery in a frontal assault. The badly mauled brigade was forced to retreat immediately, producing no decisive gains and a very large number of British casualties.

Although the poem describes events almost as they actually transpired, it's not expository in the sense that expository prose writing is expository. Understandably, the poem is highly emotive; it's not nearly so much about the facts and events of the cavalry charge as it is about the emotions it generates.

Expository plays, which are usually written in prose but sometimes in poetry, are somewhat like poems; they aim to excite pleasure by expressing beautiful, imaginative, or elevated thoughts. They depict action that takes place in dramatic settings and are written in a style that incorporates dialog. Dramas don't directly address real facts or issues; they reveal them by reenacting them; they show and discuss characters and events as they happen. For example:

The play Sunrise at Campobello dramatizes the story of the initial struggle by future President of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his family after he was stricken with paralysis in August 1921 at the age of 39.

The play cycle The Miracle Worker is another example of how expository drama differs from expository prose. It describes the relationship between Helen Keller, a deaf-blind and initially almost feral child, and Anne Sullivan, the teacher who introduced her to education, activism, and international celebrity. The cycle is not nearly so much a delineation of the facts of deaf-blindedness as it is a description of the interrelations between the teacher and the student.

Both these plays inform; they're based on historical facts, but they're not about the facts themselves.

expository prose and Its relation to fiction—facts, lies, and truth

Author's who convey information by writing expository prose aim to inform, explain, describe, define, disclose, and otherwise set forth bare facts and factual information about bare facts; they address topics that are directly related to their main subject, and nothing more. They take pains to confirm that what they write is accurate and correct. Some interpret and enlarge on their facts by analyzing, speculating, or interpreting them.

How does this treatment of facts relate to the kinds of facts presented in fiction? Expository prose works contain no fictional materials whatsoever. They are not works of imaginative narration, as are fictional works. Their authors neither tell stories nor invent the truth, as do authors who compose fictional materials; instead, expositional works capture and transmit actual truth; they represent objects, events, situations, behaviors, concepts—all things, whether material or abstract—as they exist in the real world.

These aspects of expository prose bear repeating: the factual information that author's provide when they write expository works are in accord with the actual state of affairs in real life, not with the imagined state of affairs in the fictional imagined world of an author's brain.

Consequently, expository prose belongs to that branch of literature that's comprised of works that present objective facts; it deals with or offers opinions or conjectures upon facts and reality. It's directly related to other nonfictional literary forms and bodies of work such as biography and history.

the role of Expository prose in fiction

Although facts are not falsehoods or inventions, facts do have a role to play in fiction; and as a result, expository prose plays a major role in works of fiction without abandoning its distinguishing literary features.

Some fictional works contain sections, subsections, or brief passages that are made up of expository prose. But even if they do, fictional works are not considered to be expository prose because their purpose and character conflict with that of expository prose. At core, a fictional work tells fictional stories about unreal or imagined people; or it tells fictional stories about real people. Either way, if a fictional work contains expository prose and real facts, the real information functions to support the fictional account.

Why do fiction writers introduce expository prose into their fictional accounts? Readers bring their real world experience with them when they open a book. If the book is a work of fiction, finding information they recognize to be based on truth instills in it the air of truthfulness; it encourages and prepares readers to accept unreal characters and falsified assertions, and it increases plausibility.

If you doubt this, consider what a reader's knowledge of the American Civil War adds to an encounter with Gone With the Wind. Although the connection with reality is subtle and indefinable, it's anything but inconsequential.

There are many specific reasons for adding expository prose to a work of fiction. Here are a few:

  • Passages about real things can stimulate reader interest, encourage acceptance, magnify narrative power, and help develop characterization.
  • Adding expositional materials to background or foreground segments can significantly expand the size, detail, and precision.
  • Real events and people can be blended with imaginary ones in ways that reinforce imagined facts and stories.
  • Factual references can relate a fictional work to the real world; they can expand its significance and impact; they can serve as an economical shorthand that amplifies the content or significance of fictional passages.
  • Historical novels, biographical fiction, and related literary forms are fictional works focused on and based on truth; they're variations of real events and people that reinterpret, revise, or extend real stories and events by integrating true facts and characters with imaginary ones.
  • Alternate histories spell out draw the implications and sketch the possible or likely outcomes of real events.

the role of Fiction in expository prose

Just as expository prose writing sometimes appears in fiction, fictional writing sometimes appears in expository prose. But fiction plays a quite different role in expositional writing than it does in fictional writing.

Fictional literature is the class of literature comprising works of imaginative narration; it's writing about imaginary people, events, and things; it's the body of made-up literature, untrue stories such as novels and short stories.

People normally think of fictional prose as writing that's feigned, invented, or imagined; for example a fabrication or made-up story. But expository prose is completely factual. At first glance it may seem that there's no room for something feigned or imagined in expository prose writing, which is entirely factual. So how can an imaginary or fabricated thing or event legitimately find its way into a piece of expository prose writing?

If a fiction appears in well-formed expository prose, it's really not a fiction; it's really a fact.

Here's why this is so. The word fiction frequently designates an author's invention. But fiction also can mean something else; it can be something false that's postulated for purposes of analysis, speculation, interpretation, argument, explanation, or prediction. It can be hypothetical, supposed, speculated about, or alleged; it can be kown not to exist, but made-up for purposes of discussion.

There's another way that fiction can legitimately appear in exposition: After assertion, a lie becomes a fact that can be treated as a truth. The lie is a fact that really happened, even if its content is untrue. Even if the objects it refers to do not exist, the claims are false, or the facts it alleges are invalid, an exposition may discuss them provided it explains that they're unreal in any objective sense, and provided that it depicts them in an accurate and honest manner.

Is expository prose writing a creative art form?

Creative writing expresses an author's creative imagination and originality of thought or expression. Creative writers cause something feigned to come into being, something that would not naturally evolve or that is not made by ordinary processes.

The public seems to associate the word creative with fictional writing because fiction authors weave nonliteral "truth" out of actual or imagined events, people, and objects. The public reserves the expression creative writing to describe creatively written fictional narrative prose works such as novels, short stories, and detective stories.

By contrast, the public seems to associate the term uncreative with nonfictional writing because the bulk of nonfiction is primarily aimed at effectively transmitting literal truth, a process that many believe does not seriously challenge an author's personal imagination.

This association between nonfiction and uncreativity is mitigated by that fact that people tend to see some types of nonfiction as mildly creative in a limited sense of the word creative. For instance, they believe that a travelogue can involve creative writing if it's colorfully pitched; an article about a prominent person can be creative if it describes her personality or career in glowing terms.

However, expository prose writing doesn't have this good fortune. Since the primary goal of expository writing is to transmit literal truth (and nothing but the truth), this form of writing is particularly vulnerable to accusations that it is an uncreative form of literature.

Indeed, writing fiction is a creative enterprise; but to disassociate expository nonfiction from other creative forms of writing would be a travesty. It would be a view that this section sets out to discredit.

Why does the public subscribe to the notion that expository writing is uncreative?

The pubic tends to equate exposition with objective reality; it believes that properly written expository prose should present a mirror image of "what's really out there." But it stands to reason that expository prose can't be creative if all it does is copy, transcribe, and reproduce objective reality verbatim, without the intervention of an author's conceits. The public sees expository writing as unimaginative, dull, and uncreative because it believes that the literal exposition of reality fails to cause new things to come into being, things that would not otherwise naturally evolve.

But where exposition is concerned, the public is misinterpreting the facts of the situation; it's looking for creativity in the wrong places:

Creativity is the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, conceptual models, mental constructs, objects of thought, or solutions to problems. To be creative is to have or exercise the quality or power of creating; to have originality of thought or expression; to exercise imagination or progressiveness.

To write creatively is to evolve from one's own thought or imagination original ideas or insights, subjects, modes of expression, or points of view; it's to devise and apply new and different literary concepts, features, or techniques; it's to depart from the commonplace and mundane. Writing creatively is the process or act of setting down text that results in literary works that exhibit creativity.

Expository writing accomplishes most or all of these things.

  • For more about the true nature of creative writing, visit The Muse Of Literature's feature titled Welcome To The World Of Creative Writing: click here.

Exclusive expository prose

Many observers believe that exclusive expository prose writing is not a creative form of writing because it's an intellectual, unemotional, objective pursuit designed to optimize the exposure and communication of facts and other objective information.

They believe that exclusive expository writing is not an aesthetic undertaking because it's not aimed at (or even avoids) instilling a sense of the beautiful, sensation, or emotion, and because beautiful, expressive language is altogether excluded because it detracts from its main purpose. If it's not aesthetic, they reason, it can't be creative.

If this incorrect view were valid, on the surface exclusive expository prose would seem to offer writers no chance to be creative in the way that novels or poems are creative. Text that is totally impersonal, objective, and concise leaves little if any room for the exercise of an author's aesthetic or artistic imagination, and no room at all for the interjection of imaginative personal opinions or points of view.

But the nature and degree of creativity needed to design, organize, compose, and write a successful exclusive expository prose work varies greatly with the type of work, subject matter, and audience. Writing an exclusive expository work is a rigorous, laborious, and demanding task that calls for careful crafting and scrupulous adherence to the guidelines and rules of exclusive expository prose.

Authorship of a well-written scholarly paper is a far different challenge from authoring a religious political pamphlet, a methods and procedures manual, or even a lost dog poster. But, depending upon the nature of the exposition, constructing exclusive expository works like scholarly papers or full-color corporate brochures can be a daunting task that leaves considerable room for creative juices to flow.


The expository prose essay is a kind of work that totally belies the proposition that expository prose is uncreative. A typical Ralph Waldo Emerson essay on transcendental philosophy, for example, deals personally, subjectively, and intensely with the doctrine that the principles of reality are to be discovered by the study of thought processes; it emphasizes the intuitive and spiritual above the empirical. It can hardly be considered unaesthetic, unimaginative, or unemotional.

Even essays of a technical nature that are totally objective may leave room for personal opinion. Expository prose essays can be creative if they challenge their authors to analyze, speculate, interpret, or conjecture about objective facts.

expository prose essays

Expository prose essays are not restrictive when it comes the personal involvement of their authors. A given expository prose essay can be both objective and impersonal or subjective and personal, depending on how an author chooses to express himself at different points. These forms of expository prose can be creative in the same senses that fictional and nonfictional prose writing are creative.

The roman à clef, the historical novel, and the alterative history demonstrate how objective properties of the expository prose writing style can be intermixed with the subjective properties of non-fictional prose writing.  Expository prose essays can follow these models.

Because of this kind of intermixing, combinations of the two kinds of text passages in an expository prose essay can be creative in the same sense that novels or poems are creative, despite the fact that the expository passages are nonfictional.

exclusive expository prose essays

Compositions written with the exclusive expository prose style can be expressive and creative or not, depending upon their design.

For example, the exclusive expository prose writing style is ideal for producing high school chemistry lab reports because its stylistic properties are perfectly suited to the purposes of these kinds of compositions—to present chemical facts and findings as accurately, fully, and concisely as possible. But little if any writing creativity is required to prepare them: the student merely checks boxes, makes drawings and charts, and fills in the blanks on the report form. Reporting chemistry test results offers virtually no opportunity for a student author to exercise his creative and expressive artistic impulses.

The same holds true for the typical business bulletin or year-end corporate report. Typically, authors merely copy expositions laid down in a previous year's bulletins or in other reports and update the data in the inserted or appended tables and charts. A few new passages may be required to introduce and summarize current year events, bring results up to date, or rationalize and forecast business trends.

But that doesn't mean that all exclusive expository prose documents are devoid of linguistic creativity. For example, a year-end report for a company in financial overhaul may invite glowing passages that reassure stockholders; or constructing a well-fashioned article for a high school newspaper may call for considerable skill and creative ingenuity, especially if the subject is the school's new principal, or if the student body is emotionally charged up over sports, and the subject is a wining or losing basketball team.

Exclusive expository prose writing can be creative not just expressively, but in other ways, too. Authors may devise expository documents that have new purposes or subjects, or that have new forms or organization schemes. New exclusive expository prose essay forms and genres are being invented all the time.


more about Creativity and expository prose

  • Explore the subject of creative writing at length at The Muse Of Language Arts feature titled Welcome To The World Of Creative Writing. See how expository writing fits into the world of creative writing at large: click here.

  • Explore common misconceptions about the creative character of expository prose at the section titled Is Expository Writing Creative—Common Misconceptions? You'll find this section at The Muse Of Language Arts feature titled Welcome To The World Of Creative Writing: click here.

about writing expository works—a few practical suggestions

Most expository prose forms and writing styles consist of little more than ordinary prose with a few extra wrinkles thrown in.

Since you probably write ordinary prose, you may even have written an expository prose passage today without realizing it: a book report; a school essay about "what I did on my summer vacation;" a diary entry; driving directions for an invited guest or workman; a refrigerator note for spouse or kids about how to defrost their frozen dinners.

Much of the different kinds of writing that people learn how to do in grammar school, high school, or college is expository. Chances are you've been writing expository prose most of your life without realizing; or, if you knew you were being expositional, you wrote without thinking you were doing something out of the ordinary.

Well, if so, you were right. Writing bulletins, newsletters, business letters, diary entries, and the like is nothing out of the ordinary; it comes as second nature to most of us. Virtually anybody who's equipped to read or write ordinary prose (and that's almost everyone) is technically prepared to write expository prose works like these; there's nothing special or difficult to know or learn.

If you're a citizen who wants to branch out or experiment—to try writing a new kind of expository prose—don't hesitate to flap your wings. You'll probably reach nirvana.

But you may need to exercise caution. Writing exposition may get a little dicey when it comes to certain other kinds of expository works. Here The Muse is referring to some of the kinds of expository prose employed by larger private companies, government units, schools, and other institutions.

Some out-of-the-ordinary specialized expository forms and genres composed at places like these are tailormade to satisfy the unique needs of their sponsoring agencies; they may be harder to write because the their formats are complicated or because they require professional or technical know-how. Some employ atypical forms and genres; or they deal with subjects that call for writers with specialized experience, relevant professions, or technically advanced fields; others require private knowledge about the sponsoring agency or proprietary knowledge known only to the agency.

Examples of these types of specialized forms and genres include corporate policy and procedure manuals, computer hardware use-and-care manuals, computer software user manuals, legislative acts, standards manuals, and corporate and municipal conduct manuals. Even experienced exposition writers may find it necessary to study and learn the precise formal and generic literary and linguistic requirements posed by such agencies; they also may need to bring specialized skills or advanced technical knowledge to the table in order qualify.

Other examples include expository forms and genres such as scientific or engineering journal articles, PhD or masters theses, scholarly studies, corporate or municipal annual reports, encyclopedia articles, medical tests and diagnostic reports, corporate or municipal budgets, and high school or college year books.

Many of these kinds of expository forms and genres are more or less standard; an expositional form and genre that suits the needs of Company A will probably suit the needs of Companies B or C (perhaps with a few minor modifications).

But in other cases, the modifications that meet the specific requirements of a sponsoring agency may be extensive. Special training may be called for.

There's nothing peculiar or surprising about needing specialized subject know-how to qualify for writing an expository prose piece; what's true for expositional writing is true for other writing styles.

It stands to reason, for example, that you can't expect to write a high school chem lab or physics report if you haven't attended class, done your homework assignments, or performed your experiments; that's nothing unexpected. Likewise, it stands to reason that you can't expect to write a concert review if you're not versed in music, a restaurant review if you're not a gastronome, a travelogue if you're a perennial stay-at-home, or a political op-ed if you've never voted.

Have you taken on the task of writing a non-standard expository work or one that requires special know-how? Wondering how to deal with it?

Most of us have received enough general compositional training and experience to write an expositional work if its subject falls within our career scope, or a hobby we love, or a personal field of interest. For assignments like these, at most you should only need a little extra training to come up to speed on the details of the expository form and genre required by the sponsoring agency. On the other hand, if a PhD is a job requisite, unless you possess that credential you may need to think twice about how to acquire the know how, or give up your project.

If the job scope is within your professional or technical range, are you wondering how to come up to speed on the special requirements posed by the sponsoring agency?

See if the sponsoring agency already offers the kind of expository manual you expect to write. Some agencies have a previous version of the work you're writing and only wish to have it revised; or they have samples of related works with the same or similar form and genre. Use them as guides.

Some agencies have off-beat expository documentation requirements that are so unique, they have developed an in-house manual that spells out the unique documentation requirements for their forms and genres. If so, you're probably a shoo-in.

You may be able to find samples of standard styles or templates for the form and genre of the work you plan to write; look for them in text books or writer's guides. Or look for samples in expository works published by other sponsoring agencies. Adapt them to meet the unique requirements for your agency. If you're serious about making expository writing one of your specialties, you'll probably want to read a text book or writer's guide on the subject; or take a writing course.

But before you accept an expositional writing project, The Muse urges you to consider this: it's harder to write some expository prose forms and genres than others, even if you're familiar with their generic nature; they're inherently complex.

The author is the person in charge of selecting the right form and genre and for staying on the right stylistic path. So, first and foremost, to meet this kind of a challenge you must understand the nature of expository works and styles generally and be able to distinguish them from other writing styles.

Equally important, a given work's writing style not only affects its readers, it also affects its authors. A writing style that you find agreeable and pleasing frees you to comfortably express yourself, sans inhibition. You write with more joy and less remorse; you conceive ideas and set them down using words and word patterns that bring out your positive attitudes, personality faces, thoughts, and opinions; and you're more inclined to share your outpourings with others. An uncongenial writing style will force you to suppress or muddy your thinking.

Some writers and some writing styles just don't pair up; they're constitutionally incompatible. They're so foreign, they clash with a writer's fundamental emotional or psychological makeup. Avoid them.

Welcome To The World of Creative Writing

Creative writing is a big world that encompasses many different forms of writing, not just fiction and not just highbrow literature.

At the feature titled Welcome To The World Of Creative Writing, The Muse Of Language Arts identifies and examines some of the creative writing techniques, resources, and methods that writers can call upon to help them become more creative, including inner personal resources they draw on.

The Muse also points out some of the most common misconceptions concerning the true nature of literary creativity, identifies origins of these misconceptions, and repudiates them.

The issues explored here will assist you to gain a deeper understanding of the writing craft. They also will you understand the true nature of literary creativity and to be better positioned to look for and find it in the writing you peruse. Understanding literary creativity deepens everyone's insight into of the nature of creative writing and the creative writing process.

  • Explore the nature of creative writing generally, as it applies to all forms of literature, not just expository writing: click here.

expository prose and the essay

The Muse Of Literature feature called Expository Prose And the Essay explores in depth the structure of the three most prominent expository prose literary forms: 1) exclusive expository prose, 2) the expository prose essay, and 3) the exclusive expository prose essay. It also explores the general nature of expository prose, and cites other proposed and accepted expositional forms.

  • Expand your expository prose horizons by exploring The Muse Of Literature's feature titled Expository Prose And The Essay now: click here.

Publish Your Essay

Read essays and other types of expository prose works written by Electricka's visitors! Publish your own essay or other expository prose work! It's easy! It's fun! It's rewarding!

  • Visit the Muse Of Language Arts feature titled Publish Your Essay: click here.

Send the Muse Of Language Arts your original Prose Non-Fiction work

Have you written an original prose, non-fiction piece that The Muse Of Language Arts can publish? Want to write a new prose, non-fiction work on a topic of your own choosing?

Everyone is invited to publish an original expository prose creation at the feature called Publish Your Essay. You don't have to be a professional writer or adult; your work doesn't have to be a masterpiece. You don't have to meet any qualifications except that you are a visitor to Electricka's web site who likes to write non-fiction prose. You may even submit someone else's original work with their permission provided you have both collaborated in writing it.

  • Find out how at the page called Publish Your Essay: click here.

send the muse of language arts your original essay on the subject Why Write?

People have been writing and reading since Mesopotamia. Why?

Essays titled Why Write? have tried to answer this question. They have been written by visitors to The Muse Of Language Arts in response to this invitation. Your own essay could be added to this list.

Learn more about The Muse's invitation by visiting the feature called Why Write? Read essays on this topic submitted for publication by other visitors.

  • Visit The Muse Of Language Arts' essay called Why Write?—Essays by Visitors: click here.

writing aids for writers and authors

The Muses are pleased to offer writers and authors a list of writing aid they can use at Electricka's web site. Some items on the list serve as references; they are information sources for writers of all kinds that may assist them while they are writing. Other items may help writers hone and polish their skills.

  • Access these aids at the page titled Writing Aids For Writers And Authors: click here.

Technical Aspects Of Literature

The technical aspects of any written work are its properties and techniques as seen from a literary and language perspective.

All writing incorporates and is made up of technical elements like meter, form, sound (rhyme), and figures of speech. Techniques and language elements like these are common to all fields of writing; all writers use them, deliberately or subconsciously. Any particular work can by analyzed, understood, described, and classified by the combination of the writing elements it incorporates.

In this feature, The Muse Of Literature explores writing and writings from a technical and design point of viewstructure, organization, tone, style, language constructions, and all the other technical aspects that make for coherent, expressive, and effective writing, or its opposite.

  • Explore The Muse Of Literature's feature called Technical Aspects of Literature: click here.

professional writing and documentation services

Want topflight professional writing or documentation services at a reasonable cost?

ETAF Recommends

ETAF recommends Writing Right.

Writing Right is an ETAF app product that makes it easy to catch and correct all sorts of writing mistakes. Fix them while you are writing or editing. It also helps you to a better writing style.

The Writing Right White Paper is a free white paper that explains the theory behind Writing Right.

  • More about the Writing Right White Paper: click here.


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