How to Add Narrative and Descriptive Elements to Expository Writing

Updated on March 24, 2020
To make your expository writing vivid, add narrative and descriptive details.
To make your expository writing vivid, add narrative and descriptive details. | Source

Writers sometimes think that writing styles must be kept distinct. They assume that, when writing an expository piece, they should avoid descriptive or narrative details. Perhaps the assumption is that their expository writing will sound more formal without the descriptive elements.

Effective writing, though, in any style calls for using the best support for a position or point of view. Therefore, writers can use descriptive and narrative details as long as they select those that are appropriate to their purpose.

What is expository writing?

The purpose of expository writing is to define and explain an idea. Writers often use expository essays to report on an idea they investigated. They evaluate evidence, expand on the original idea and state a position based on their findings. For instance, a piece exploring the current effects of the Great Depression on the economy is expository writing. To write this piece, they start by defining the terms associated with the Great Depression. They then move to an exploration of the current economy and how certain elements can be related back to the Depression.

Though expository writing is supposed to be straight-forward, writers still have the opportunity to include creative elements. Narrative or descriptive elements that support the writer's position are appropriate additions to expository essays.

Point out the parallel between then and today using descriptive language.
Point out the parallel between then and today using descriptive language. | Source

How do I use descriptive elements?

The goal of descriptive writing is to create a vivid image in the reader's mind. Writers do this with imagery. For imagery, concise language, sensory details and emotive images freeze one moment in time in the reader's mind.

These techniques are appropriate for expository writing as well. Concise language that paints a picture in the reader's mind helps define and explain an idea. If writing about the Great Depression's effects, a writer can choose the precise words to explain the immediate effects on the land, thus creating that image. Likewise, sensory details related to the dust bowl effect bring one of those moments home to the reader. Most significantly, though, is using emotive language to drive home the lingering effects the Depression had on survivors' psyches, for example.

To use descriptive elements in your own expository writing, first of all consider which aspects of your topic have the most emotive potential. Try to drill that element down into one moment in time. Brainstorm sensory words that will create a vivid image in the reader's head. When choosing your descriptive words, choose the most precise ones to paint the picture. Lastly, don't be afraid to use emotive language. This relates to one of the three pillars of persuasion, pathos. Creating an emotional reaction in your reader drives your point home.

Everyone loves a good story -- use that to your advantage. Use an anecdote to support a point.
Everyone loves a good story -- use that to your advantage. Use an anecdote to support a point. | Source

How do I use narrative elements?

With narrative writing, you relate a story or an anecdote. Like with descriptive elements, writers choose vivid words and concise language.

Narrative elements can help a writer make his point in an expository essay. He can use an anecdote that either gets the reader thinking in his direction at the beginning of the piece or recount a story that provokes further thought at the conclusion. Likewise, relating an
experience that supports the position directly is effective. For example, using a short narrative to explain the personal effects of the Great Depression creates a lasting image in the reader's mind.

To use a narrative in your expository writing, consider starting with an anecdote that sets the stage for your exploration. Don't make it personal. Rather, try to find a published story or even a literary anecdote. Your conclusion is another strong position to include a narrative. Make sure any concluding stories will keep your readers thinking in the direction you want them to go in.

The Key to Effective Writing

As with any writing, they key to expository essays is using the elements effectively. Writers using a narrative to support their points in expository writing need to ensure they use a sufficient amount of detail to make the story work without overwhelming the expository nature of the writing. To achieve this, choosing precise wording allows for brevity.

Likewise, writers need to make certain the description or narrative is relevant to their positions. They need to select only the details that contribute to their positions, eliminating any that do not directly support the points.

In conclusion, don't be afraid to get creative with your writing. Readers enjoy vivid images and narratives. Just make sure they support your points.

As always, when writing any piece, make time for editing. Have someone else read your copy or let it sit for a day before returning to it. Keep specific questions in mind about how certain elements strengthen or weaken your writing. Narrative and descriptive details can be a boon to expository writing -- just don't let them turn your essay into a creative writing piece!

Expository Writing CAN be Creative!

© 2013 Nadia Archuleta


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    • profile image

      Magdalene Omoti 

      4 months ago

      Wonderful l Love this

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      good advice

    • nArchuleta profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadia Archuleta 

      6 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Writing styles don't need to be mutually exclusive -- not everyone realizes that. Thanks for stopping by!

    • LCDWriter profile image

      L C David 

      6 years ago from Florida

      Excellent advice for writers who are trying to understand essay structure and academic writing.


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