What is an Expository Paragraph?

CaptainDan

Member
  • #1
There are quite a few different types of paragraphs and many of them have already been described on this forum, but one of my all time favorites is the expository paragraph. The reason I enjoy writing these types of paragraphs is that they allow me to explain various topics through my writing. Almost like I'm doing right now. We already know what descriptive paragraphs do. They describe various subjects and topics. We already know what narrative paragraphs do. They detail the personal growth of a character or characters. Do we know what expository paragraphs do? Well let me fill you in. Expository paragraphs explain things to the reader. They clarify and educate the reader. And in doing so, it's important that they be formulated in such a way so to provide sound and solid reasoning through a specific framework of organization. Now, if that sounds sort of confusing, don't worry. I'll explain exactly what I mean below.

It's all about organizing this type of paragraph. When attempting to explain something to a reader, as a writer you'll need to build a solid framework to do so effectively and understandably. I want you to think of the structure of a house for this. In a normal house, there is a foundation, a front door, walls, and a roof. If we attribute these things to a wonderfully written expository paragraph, we can think of the foundation as the thesis. What's the paragraph about? What do you hope to achieve? The door can be thought of as the introductory sentence, which will invite the reader into the paragraph. The walls can be thought of as the body of the paragraph. The body that both sits upon the foundation and around the door. This is where most of the heavy lifting takes place; the explaining, verifying, clarifying, etc... Remember, the body of the paragraph must also be convincing and provide evidence where appropriate. It must also be complete and not leave anything of importance out. Finally, there's the roof. This is where everything is held together. This is the concluding sentence. Wrap up all of your points and complete the paragraph here.

Please remember that, as a writer, you're never funneled into a narrow track that's meant to confine you and kill your creativity. These descriptions of the different types of paragraphs are meant to help you organize thoughts and give purpose to your writing. When you head into writing a piece, it's helpful to have an understanding of the paragraph's purpose which will guide you through the process of doing a good and effective job. After all, your writing is meant to be read. The better you prepare and execute your craft, the happier your reader will be. Also, the longer you write and the more used to these types of paragraphs you become, the less you'll have to think about the "rules" and the more time you'll have to focus on your ideas. This is just the way it is. It can be somewhat challenging in the beginning, but writing because second nature very quickly, especially if you write a lot.

Down below, I'll cover the different types of sentences we can use while writing expository paragraphs. I'll go into some detail because it's quite important to decipher which is which when it comes to this type of paragraph.
 

CaptainDan

Member
  • #2
How to Craft Quality Introductory Sentences

As I stated above, introductory sentences are one of the building blocks of well written paragraphs. If you take a look at other types of paragraphs, you'll see that their structures differ from the expository type. Take persuasive paragraphs for example. Those are meant to take a stance or opinion on a topic and to persuade the reader to the author's point of view. When it comes to expository paragraphs though, the goal is quite different. With this type, the author must focus on structuring the paragraph in such a way as to explain something. And in doing so, he or she must structure effectively. It's not an easy task to get someone to understand something and that's why it's so critical to focus on the format of these types of paragraphs. It's sort of like spoon feeding a baby. You want to set things up in small chunks to make them easily digestible. I'm sure we've all had those teachers or professors we've found to be absolutely terrible. The probable reasoning behind our opinions is that we thought our instruction was somehow disjointed or incomplete. Let's not allow that type of opinion to be formed about our paragraphs. We're here to help others understand.

The best way to help others understand is to break our explanation down into bite sized chunks. Since our goal is to clarify and explain, it helps to, as stated above, break the paragraph down into parts and then describe how those parts interrelate with one another and the whole. Each component of the paragraph is meant to justify the explanation you'd like to convey. Introductory sentences are a huge part of this, as they tell the reader what they can expect to be reading about.

So, what exactly do introductory sentences do? Well, they:

- Give the issue at hand a nice introduction.
- Push the cruft aside and describe the topic in a clear way.
- Offer the reader the categories that will be utilized in the issue's explanation.
- Offer the reader the thesis statement.

Can you imagine attempting to explain something to someone without first introducing what you'd like to explain? Trust me, getting your point across relies heavily on the setup. It's the introduction that paves the way for success. As a matter of fact, expository paragraphs that fail to do their jobs usually have the lack of a complete and effective introductory sentences to blame. After all, it's this sentence that introduces the topic or issue. What really helps during this setup is to offer some background to the reader along with the introduction. If you're going to be discussing a topic that not many folks have information on, perhaps a short lesson would be in order. As an example, let's say you are going to be explaining something about the great New York City Fire Department (NYFD), you should also give some perspective to the reader. You can start off like this: "The New York City Fire Department, founded in 1865 and having employed 337,000 brave men and women, ...." Now, I made up that employment number, but you get the idea. A bit of background on your topic can go a long way. Down below, I'll get into much more about introductory sentences and the primary jobs they're tasked with.

Why Write an Introductory Sentence Anyway?

Well, I just explained that above, but let's get into it a bit more below.

First and foremost, these types of sentences are responsible for introducing a topic and telling the reader why it's important. Here's an example of that:

After an analysis of times to fire for the NYFD, we've determined that the new routes and routines we've implemented have reduced response time and safety by more than 50%.

If you look closely at the sentence above, you'll notice that it introduces the reader to the reasons we're writing the paragraph in the first place. Ultimately, the NYFD is looking to cut response times and improve safety. By doing what they've done, they've accomplished their goal, or are at least on their way to doing so.

Introductory sentences do more as well. They also outline what the following paragraph will be about and bring the main ideas to light. Here's another example of that:

After calculating recent results of time to fire and incidences for the NYFD, it's become apparent that much needs to be improved in the way of response times and safety.

Again, if you look closely, you'll find what the main ideas will be of the following paragraph as well as the order they may be expected to be presented. If you aren't aware, the main ideas are response times and safety.

And finally, we've got the good ol' thesis that we all know and love so much. A thesis statement is the main point or the overall claim of the entire paper or the specific paragraph, such as is the case here. Let's try another example:

The NYFD is expected to make it to their destination fires or emergencies in a timely manner, safely, and efficiently.

The statement above pretty much sums up the purpose of the paragraph. It's simply and complete.

Personally, I've found that the better I craft my introductory sentences, the more I'm able to look at them for guidance as I'm writing the rest of my paragraphs. If you've been writing for any amount of time, you surely know how easy it can be to go off track. By creating an effective sentence up front, you'll not only be introducing all of the points you'd like to cover in your paragraph for your readers, but you'll also be creating a map from which you can write. This is helpful for both you as a writer as well as your readers. Again, the more organized and intentional you are, the better your message will be received. And if you're the type of writer who likes to take breaks every so often, having a good introductory sentence from which to work will help immensely. You can write, get up for a break, return to your desk, reread your sentence, and continue writing.

Above all else, you must remember that readers are humans. They need to be captivated and entertained, no matter how boring the topic is at hand and no matter how boring you assume your reader to be. Your goal is to have your audience read your entire paragraph, not get through a few initial sentences and toss your writing aside. When writing your introductory sentence, never apologize. Never act as if you aren't certain of your topic. Never begin with a dictionary definition (I hate those) and never be blunt and obvious, such as, "Today, I will be writing about..." Just don't do those things. They're for amateurs. You're better than an amateur.

What should you do? Be entertaining. Be captivating. Be interesting. Use a little flair. Intrigue your reader. Pretend that you're giving a talk in front of a large audience. Start your paragraph off with a surprising fact or an interesting quote. Perhaps include some humor. That always gets people going. Of course, whichever tactic you choose should be relevant to your topic, but when using something like this, it usually helps catch the reader and it encourages them to continue on reading what you've written.
 

CaptainDan

Member
  • #3
How to Craft Quality Body Sentences

Now that we've given the, I guess you can call, scope of the paragraph with the introductory sentence, it's time to turn to the heavy lifting. Body sentences are used for support. They fully explain the viewpoint of the author, offer examples, and show evidence, if available. But remember this; no matter how well written an introductory sentence is, the entire paragraph will fall flat if that sentence isn't supported as it's supposed to be. Take a look at these two examples:

Example #1: The NYFD is late to eight out of ten fires it's called to and that's an unsustainable situation. Because yeah, no one likes it when the fire department is late. It just stinks. They should be on time. Or they should at least try to be on time more than they are.

Example #2: The NYFD is late to eight out of ten fires it's called to and that's an unsustainable situation. The reasons for this are varied and the results can be catastrophic. From what we've discovered, the routing to calls is what's most concerning and what's most responsible for the tardiness at hand. On most routes where the fire department is late, either the roads have been under construction or there has been substantial traffic that has slowed the trucks down. To deal with this, more effective routing software should be used by the dispatchers. This is a critical situation because when the fire department is late to a fire, the loss of life can be tragic and the loss of property can be quite consequential.

After reading those two examples that begin with strong introductory sentences, which body do you think is more effective at conveying the author's message? Obviously, the second one. But why? Well, if we take a look at the body sentences in the first example, we'll find that there was no support given. There were no reasons offered to explain why the tardiness of the fire department isn't sustainable. In the second example, there were reasons given. And not only that, there were also reasons given for why the department is late. The second paragraph's body sentences illuminates the topic at hand and was well organized. The results of research were used as was the effects of a poorly dispatched department.

Let's take a closer look at what makes an effective body sentence or sentences. What should these sentences do? What should they contain? What should the result be after reading good ones? What makes well written and well argued body sentences?

- Body sentences should reflect the argument offered by the introductory sentence.
- They should also contain supporting evidence, such as research, quotes, and data.
- The supporting evidence should be fleshed out and explained.
- All sentences in the body should stay on track and maintain relevance to the introductory sentence.
- All sentences should flow well into and from one another and be related.

If we delve into the individual sentences contained in the body of an expository paragraph, we'll notice that the first body sentence introduces the primary subpoint of the paragraph. The introductory sentence opened everything up, but the sentence after that needs to continue on in the same vein. Let's take another look at the second example again - at the two sentences in question:

The NYFD is late to eight out of ten fires it's called to and that's an unsustainable situation. The reasons for this are varied and the results can be catastrophic.

As you can see, the first sentence is very broad, as is the second one, but the second one narrows the scope slightly. This is the way it's supposed to be. As the body progresses, the scope becomes more and more narrow.

If we continue on in the body from the above example, we'll notice something interesting:

From what we've discovered, the routing to calls is what's most concerning and what's most responsible for the tardiness at hand. On most routes where the fire department is late, either the roads have been under construction or there has been substantial traffic that has slowed the trucks down.

Do you see how I jumped into the facts? I narrowed down further. The research showed that the actual routing to the calls was to blame. And after I offered that fact, I went on to explain exactly how the routing was to blame; because of construction and traffic.

When it comes to the body of this type of paragraph, we must finally ask why. Who cares? Why write the paragraph at all? Well, if we again look at the example I wrote above, we'll see why.

This is a critical situation because when the fire department is late to a fire, the loss of life can be tragic and the loss of property can be quite consequential.

The answer to "why" has been answered. In this case, we're dealing with the loss of life and property. That's good enough for me. So really, it all boils down to this one line. The answer to the questions we ask. And if we can answer that why or who cares question properly, they we've written a well crafted body.
 

CaptainDan

Member
  • #4
How to Craft Quality Concluding Sentences

The concluding sentence in a paragraph is hugely important. I wouldn't say it's more important than the other parts of the paragraph, but it's just as important. It's actually very simple as well. Here, read this quick example:

This is what I was going to say, this is what I said, and why.

How's that? It's important to use the opportunity of writing your concluding sentence to continue on with the good impression you're attempting to portray. You set out to do something and you explained what that would be in your introduction. Your goal was to explain something to your readers and you did that within your body. Now, with your concluding sentence, you'll need to remind your readers what you set out to do and then after that, how you did it. If you have space, tell them why as well. Just don't sound repetitive in this sentence. Use your skills as a writer to rephrase things to make them sound fresh and new. Also be sure to bring closure to your paragraph at this time. It's the time to say goodbye. Well, for this one topic anyway.

What should you hope to accomplish with your concluding sentence?

- You can reflect upon your initial argument.
- You can offer a quick summary of your paragraph's main points.
- You can give a strong, yet smooth closing for your paragraph.

While this sounds easy and straightforward, there are a few temptations we must try to avoid at all costs. Don't attempt to rehash your introduction during your conclusion. Your introduction is already complete. Also, steer clear of cliche terms and phrases, such as In summary or In conclusion. People don't have time for that kind of amateur. Don't go over what you've shared in the body of your paragraph in great detail. You already did that and a brief glancing will be enough. Never apologize for not going further in your topic or for not having all the answers. Your paragraph was intended to cover a certain scope and that's what you did. You can write more later if you discover new information. And finally, don't be an absolutist. Don't make bold claims. Don't write things like, "This proves it!" or "There is now no dispute!" That's showmanship that's best left out of this type of writing.

While concluding sentences may seem repetitive, they're certainly necessary. They're also a challenge for the better writers of us. It's not easy to craft an elegant conclusion that offers closure, reiteration, and punch. With the concluding sentence, you've been given one last chance to make your point and to really drive it home. Think about energizing speeches, political commercials, and advertisements by nonprofits asking for donations. It's usually in the last few seconds that the point of the message is driven home. Whether a bold statement be made, a warning given, an image evoked, inspiration conveyed, or something else, this is the time to draw the mental image for your reader and to leave them walking away with the message you tried to convey loud and clear in their minds. Let's see what I can do with the example I gave above in the preceding sections. Again, this can prove to be the most challenging section of the entire paragraph. The other sections can be perfectly factual, but the finale needs to be emotional.

Introduction

After calculating recent results of time to fire and incidences for the NYFD, it's become apparent that much needs to be improved in the way of response times and safety.

Body

The NYFD is late to eight out of ten fires it's called to and that's an unsustainable situation. The reasons for this are varied and the results can be catastrophic. From what we've discovered, the routing to calls is what's most concerning and what's most responsible for the tardiness at hand. On most routes where the fire department is late, either the roads have been under construction or there has been substantial traffic that has slowed the trucks down. To deal with this, more effective routing software should be used by the dispatchers. This is a critical situation because when the fire department is late to a fire, the loss of life can be tragic and the loss of property can be quite consequential.

Conclusion

We know what the problem is and we know the causes; dysfunctional routing, road construction, traffic, but what we must ultimately ask ourselves is if this is the type of city in which we'd like to live - one that asks its citizens to pay hand over fist for a top rate fire department that does its job wonderfully, but that can't get to those jobs on time.

And there you have it. Please ask questions if you have them.
 

CaptainDan

Member
  • #5
Review Questions

1. What are three of the main purposes of an introductory sentence?

The three main purposes of an introductory sentence are: to introduce the topic at hand and to explain why it's important, outline the structure of a paragraph and to highlight the main ideas, and state the thesis of the paragraph.

2. What should you never do in an introductory sentence?

In an introductory sentence, you should never: apologize, make sweeping generalizations, use dictionary definitions, or announce your intentions.

3. How should you refute counterpoints?

To refute counterpoints within your introductory sentence, a writer should clearly lay out their position and why it's important. Also, if there is something that directly contradicts their position, it helps to introduce that as well and to negate that argument.

4. What is the formula for a well-argued body sentence?

The formula for a well-argued body sentence goes like this: the writer can start off by mentioning the initial argument that was laid out in the introduction. Then they can support that argument with sources and quotes from recognized sources. After that, they can articulate the significance of each source or quote, all the while staying on track and making sure that any supporting information remains relevant to the initial argument. And finally, the writer can seamlessly transition to the next body sentence.

5. What should you include in a concluding sentence? What should you never include in a concluding sentence?

The things a writer should always include in the concluding sentence are: a reiteration of how the thesis plays into the paragraph, a summary of the primary point for writing the paragraph, a concise articulation of any statements made, and a strong sense of closure to the paragraph.

The things an author should never include in a concluding sentence are: a rewritten introduction or thesis statement, any overused phrases (as described above in the Concluding Sentence section), a reiteration of what's already been written in the body of the paragraph, an apology for not being more thorough, and any absolute claims of certainty.
 
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