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So you’re watching a movie with your younger sibling and after it gets over, your confused sibling asks, “I didn’t understand. What was the movie about?”

The next thing you do is break down the movie and explain it in a manner that’s easy for your sibling to understand.

Now imagine having to write an essay on it – that’s essentially what an explanatory essay is.

Suddenly, when it’s an assignment, it doesn’t seem fun anymore, does it?

Don’t worry – in this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about writing explanatory essays and how you can submit a well-written one that will help you get the highest grades.

What is an Explanatory Essay?

An explanatory (also known as expository) essay is a kind of essay that requires you to describe and explain a particular point of view, incident, event or situation.

Unlike the other kinds of essays such as argumentative and persuasive, explanatory essays are more about presenting information, facts, statistics, and examples to explain the situation rather than taking a side and persuading the readers to agree with your opinion.

Students are expected to evaluate the situation and present a clear, logical explanation of what transpired while keeping a neutral standpoint.

The purpose of such essays is to encourage students to pay attention to the details, consider factual observations, analyze and write with utmost clarity.

6 types of explanatory essay you will come across in school and college

  1. Definition – explain a complicated concept.
  2. Cause and effect – describe a situation that occurred and explain the impact it had.
  3. Compare and contrast – explain the differences and similarities between two or more people, situations, concepts, events, etc.
  4. How-to-explain the procedure or process involved in doing something.
  5. Classification – break down a broad subject into different parts and explain each one in detail.
  6. Problem and solution – analyze and evaluate a particular problem and pose the best possible solution.

8 Steps to Start a High-Scoring Explanatory Essay

Writing explanatory essays are like educating people about a particular concept. The best ones are those that engage the reader and leave them with everything they need to know about the topic.

Whether they choose to agree or disagree is secondary – what matters is having the complete information.

Now that you know what is an explanatory essay, its purpose, and the various types, let’s take a look at the steps involved in writing a winning essay and score the best grades.

Pick a Neutral Topic

One of the most critical aspects of writing an explanatory essay is having a neutral point of view.

Many students don’t realize the difference between explaining and persuading. An explanatory essay needs you to describe/explain as opposed to taking sides and persuading the reader.

Hence, it’s very important to pick a topic that’s non-controversial and which allows you to be neutral. So, brainstorm and make a list of topics that interest you. Then, narrow them down and look at them with an ‘expository’ lens and evaluate the scope to explain it in detail.

Conduct Research and Gather Evidence

What is an explanatory essay without accurate and in-depth research?

Give yourself ample time to look into credible and reputable sources to do research and gather evidence that can be used to validate your arguments while writing the essay.

From facts and quotes to statistical data, survey results and examples – lookout for any kind of factual, anecdotal or logical evidence that can be used in the paper.

Here’s a video by Raynor Memorial Libraries, offering practical advice on how you can conduct research for your explanatory essay

Outline your Ideas

After all the extensive research, you will be left with a whole lot of information and data. Don’t make the mistake of diving right into the writing stage.

Take a moment to organize your thoughts and outline your ideas to avoid getting overwhelmed and worse, leaving out important points.

Writing a five-paragraph explanatory essay generally means devoting one paragraph to the introduction and conclusion each and three paragraphs to the body.

Creating an outline is nothing but jotting down the points you plan to include in the introduction, body and conclusion paragraphs. This rough outline serves as a skeleton and ensures your paper follows a logical flow.

Regardless of how stressed and pressed you are for time, don’t miss out on this step.

Craft a Strong Thesis Statement

The importance of a strong thesis statement cannot be emphasized enough – it forms the backbone of every essay.

The thesis statement is essentially two to three sentences that appear at the end of the introductory paragraph. They need to clearly communicate what the rest of your essay is about and make the reader want to know more.

Remember – an effective thesis statement is concise, debatable and supportable. Make sure you’re able to justify it in the succeeding paragraphs.

If you find yourself spending too much time wondering “how to write the thesis statement,” and developing it, work on a rough version and come back to refine it after you’re doing writing the entire paper.

Start with an Enticing Hook

“How do I start an explanatory essay”, you may wonder.

Well, the key is to grab the reader’s attention by starting with an enticing hook. A hook may be in the form of a rhetorical question, a quote, a startling statistic, a funny anecdote, an interesting fact, a metaphor or anything else that would reel the readers in and pique their interest.

The hook is the first one or two sentences of the essay after which you need to go on to give background information that will offer context on the topic.

Lastly, of course, end the introductory paragraph with a strong thesis statement you crafted earlier.

Validate your Arguments with Facts and Examples

Now comes the meat of your explanatory essay and the most time-consuming section – the body paragraphs.

It’s advisable to devote one paragraph to each idea wherein you state the main idea, offer evidence and smoothly transition to the next idea.

Speaking of evidence, here’s where your research efforts need to pay off. Make sure you offer enough evidential statements to justify your arguments and back your claims up. This will only strengthen the paper and your writing.

Feel free to use charts, graphs, and illustrations too, if necessary.

Wondering how to use and apply evidence in your explanatory essay?

Here’s a video of Ariel Bissett offering some useful tips

The reader needs to see a logical connection between the main ideas you’re stating and the thesis statement – so make sure you’re able to correlate each of them back to the statement made.

Stay within the word count because it’s easy to get carried away while writing this section.

Wrap up with a Strong Conclusion

“How do I end my explanatory essay” is a valid question to have because like it or not – the concluding paragraph has the highest recall value and your instructor is most likely to remember your writing basis this section.

So, if you think you can just summarize the thesis statement, you’re mistaken.

An ideal conclusion needs to reinstate the thesis statement while touching upon the main ideas and evidence you highlighted in the essay.

Once you’ve wrapped up the critical points, leave the reader with a powerful call-to-action that makes them think and effectively puts across the point you set out to make.

Edit and Proofread

After the days of hard work, you ought to set aside time to edit and proofread the essay. You don’t want to submit a paper filled with silly mistakes and let all your efforts go down the drain.

So, make sure you read the essay multiple times and watch out for grammatical and spelling errors, and see that your paper covers all the points and flows in a logical manner. It’s also important to use the right transition words to make for a smooth reading experience.

To avoid any kind of unintentional plagiarism, you must accurately cite all the sources you have referred to in the paper in the required style (MLA, APA, Harvard, etc.).


An explanatory essay is a common assignment but that doesn’t make it easy to tackle. It’s important to stay true to the rules of writing an explanatory essay and remember the core purpose which is to explain or describe a concept, situation, event, etc and not share your opinion or stance.

If you’re still worried about how to go about it, we at Writers Per Hour can help you out. Our professional writers are experts at explanatory essay writing and can offer you the assistance you need to score well.

All you need to do is write to us saying, “I need help with my explanatory essay” and we will get the best-suited writer on the job to deliver a high-quality explanatory essay, written from scratch.

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