How to Write an Explanatory Essay

How to Write an Explanatory Essay

Looking for an example of an explanatory essay or a detailed how-to writing guide? Either way, you’re in the right place! Here we share the tips and tricks to completing this assignment as fast and painlessly as possible without losing a single point of your grade.

Let’s start with a definition of explanatory writing and work our way from there.

What Is an Explanatory Essay?

As the name suggests, an explanatory essay calls for a detailed explanation, along with background info and supporting evidence. However, it doesn’t need arguments or persuasive passages to convince the reader. It may be thought-provoking, but the goal is to provide the reader with the best information on the subject without creating undue biases. To define an explanatory essay, think of an explanatory story like a news article or a DIY tutorial, though there are plenty of other patterns we’ll discuss in this post.

How to Write an Explanatory Essay

Do You Need an Explanatory Essay Outline?

If you want your work to make sense, you need to create at least a rudimentary outline before writing. It can be as simple as listing all your ideas and shuffling them around until the order makes sense. But to make that go even faster, we recommend you settle on an organization pattern for your essay first. 

There are several possibilities, and one of them is sure to work out perfectly for your topic:

  1. Chronological or sequential patterns. The former goes great with describing events as they pan out. The letter can be divided into steps or stages to explain how to do something.
  2. Compare and contrast patterns. It’s perfect for highlighting the similarities and differences across two or more subjects.
  3. Cause and effect pattern. This one works wonders for getting to the bottom of the reasons behind events and their long-term consequences.
  4. Problem and solution pattern. The reverse of the previous one, this pattern lets you list the issues and viable or potential solutions to resolve them.
  5. Topical pattern. If none of the previous options fits the bill, you can stick with the standard one topic per paragraph and be done with it. But if you plan on introducing several main topics and subtopics, you’ll need to group them.  

With your organization pattern chosen, and a rough idea of what story you want to tell, it’s time to face the blank page.

How to Start an Explanatory Essay

You could theoretically start your paper at any point throughout. But if you want it to make sense in the end, you need to do one thing first, and that is to craft a thesis statement for an explanatory essay. This single sentence encompasses the idea of the paper and hints at the major points you want to make. Think of it as a one-sentence summary of the paper. Besides, it’s a sure brownie-point-winner among professors. 

With a draft thesis statement, you can write the essay in any order. However, we prefer fleshing out the body paragraphs before wrapping up the conclusion. The introduction is always the last thing we write, as it takes time to find the right hook to grab the reader’s attention from the first line on.

How to Write an Explanatory Paragraph

The structure of most body paragraphs can be similar, if not the same. Open with a transition that ties the passage to the previous one and insert your topic sentence. It’s the core idea of the whole paragraph, similar to a small-scale thesis statement. Back up your topic sentence with reference data, evidence, and other supporting proof. Two or three sources should be enough to support every major point, though your professor may require more. Finally, wrap up the paragraph with a short transition into the following.

Get Your Essay Ready for Submission

Before you hurry and submit the first draft, remember that post-writing steps are equally vital to your grade. Always leave enough time to edit and proofread the work, format citations, reference list, and title page. Every tiny improvement you make to your paper at this stage will add points to the grade, so don’t let your writing efforts go to waste!

Now you know how to write an explanatory essay, and nothing can stop you from getting top grades!