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Narrative vs. Expository Writing

Creating a paper is an exciting process because you can share your own experience, reveal your research results, or narrate your life story. There are many things to write about, and that's why we have such a great variety of essay types. Which of them you will choose depends entirely on your preferences and purpose.

In this article we are going to focus on "narrative vs. expository" question, compare their differences and similarities and decide when each type suits you best.

Every essay type has its purpose, which might be persuading, informing, conducting an experiment, etc. You should figure out what your aim is and then decide what is more suitable for you. However, to be able to make an informed choice, you should know everything about all those types. Hence, before looking at the difference between the narrative and expository writing, let's go deeper into the meaning, purpose, and features of both essays.

The features of a narrative essay

If you go for a narrative essay, you should ask yourself a question: What is a narrative essay? And it is not until you learn about all its peculiarities that you can proceed with the actual writing.

A narrative essay is a piece of writing which demands one to tell a story, usually of a personal kind. The primary purpose of narrative writing is to share an experience which can somehow help the reader or relate to their feelings. This type of essay often includes characters, chronology, stylistic devices and might have a moral conclusion.


Having characters is very important because they help you animate your story and draw a vivid picture. You should clearly show their main qualities, personality, and mood by describing their appearance or behavior in specific situations, paying particular attention to details. If a person reads your essay and feels like he or she is the character of the story, it means that you did a great job.


A narrative essay should be written in chronological order. Use words like 'before,' 'later,' 'meanwhile,' 'afterward,' etc. and develop your story smoothly.

Stylistic devices

Using metaphors, epithets, similes, and idioms will make your essay more linguistically rich and exciting to read. Sometimes, feelings are really hard to convey properly. Hence, stylistic devices can help you find the right phrases to express yourself.

Moral of the story

Being one of the essential parts of the essay, the moral of the story shows the primary goal of your essay. Sometimes, it is difficult to understand what the writer meant, and in this case, pointing out this lesson that you teach through the essay is really helpful.

Authors usually enjoy writing this kind of essay because they do not have to do any research or persuade anyone - you can just write your own story. It is really awesome to share your experience and thoughts with others, thus letting them relate to it.

When you're working on a narrative essay, do not forget that:

  • You should always try to involve the readers in your story. It will make them feel as if they were the main characters and fully immersed in all the major events.
  • It's advisable to use the first-person pronoun (however, third-person pronouns like 'he,' 'she,' 'it' are also acceptable).
  • You should always generalize the story at the end, thus helping the readers understand your point of view.

The features of expository writing

Firstly, let's find out what an expository essay is. It is a writing piece that exposes a specific idea with the help of thorough analysis. It gives a clear conception of the theme and provides reliable evidence. Additionally, the expository essay might include various instructions. To master this type of writing, you have to do extensive research and outline the main ideas.

There are different types of expository essay: process, problem-solution, comparison and contrast, definition, and classification. Each of them has its own peculiarities:

  • in the definition essay the author writes the explanation of a complicated term that various people may understand differently;
  • the comparison and contrast essay the author writes about the similarities and differences between the two subjects;
  • the cause and effect essay is concentrated on the reasons which caused something and the consequences;
  • in the problem and solution essay the writer focuses on a particular problem and proposes a solution they consider the best;
  • in the classification writing a broad topic is split into different groups and subcategories;
  • the process essay explains how to do something following a step-by-step guide.

All of these essays have similarities, and as such, they are broadly defined as expository writing.

Here are the common features of an expository essay:

  • It is illustrative. This feature is essential because to understand the subject fully you need to look through some examples.
  • It is analytical. Only through thorough analysis, you can explore the topic extensively.
  • It is clear. The thoughts of the writer should always be understandable and cohesive.
  • It is impersonal. The essay does not include first-person pronouns and biased opinions.
  • It is explanatory. Explanations are required in this type of essay as the name implies.
  • It is descriptive. This feature is one of the most important because it allows for better comprehension.

As a rule, an expository essay has your good old five paragraphs in its structure: the introduction, three main body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph.

The opening section of the essay is, naturally, the introduction. Here you should familiarize the readers with your thesis, as well as the issue you are going to dissect.

The body paragraphs usually contain specific evidence to support your key points.

Finally, in the end, we always place a conclusion part which should give the reader a brief synopsis of the topic.

How do narrative and expository writing differ?

How do we distinguish between expository vs. narrative essays? Actually, it is not that difficult.

First of all, let's take a look at a narrative essay. It is a story which can relate to the author's personal experience or may be fictional.

A narrative essay:

  • Is creative - the author can come up with a unique story, creating something new and exciting.
  • Is personal - your own experience can be mentioned.
  • Uses various linguistic "decorations" to make the story more compelling.
  • Usually, develops in chronological order with rare flashbacks.
  • Can contain personal pronouns.

As far as an expository essay is concerned, it should be mentioned that it explores a specific topic in depth. This type is very informative and usually includes different instructions and raw facts. You can't put a personal story into this essay type.

Expository writing:

  • Includes many facts which prove the thesis statement.
  • Contains verified information, concerning a particular topic.
  • Is organized in a logical manner.
  • Gives the writer's opinion on the matter, backed by proof.
  • Explains the reasons behind processes.

So, we see that these types of writing are not very similar, and the key difference between them is their style. In the narrative essay, you write a fictitious or your own story, and you can be as creative as you want. On the contrary, when writing the expository essay, you should abide by strict structuring rules, give facts, specific information, instructions and, of course, explanations.

How are expository and narrative writing similar?

Narrative and expository essays have few similarities. It should come as no news to you that, basically, the essays' structure is the same. Almost any paper should have the five-paragraph organization. That is the first main similarity.

The second one is that they both require thorough research of the subject. Every essay demands exploration and extensive knowledge because, without it, you will not be able to write something good.

Both are interesting in their own way. Which one to choose depends on your task or preferences if a type is not indicated in the requirements. An expository essay is more formal and supplies people with detailed information, while in a narrative one you can share your experience or tell a personal or fictional story. Regardless of what you need to write, you can always rely on our professionals. Have no time or desire? Order your essays from us!

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There are different types of essays: narrative, persuasive, compare\contrast, definition and many many others. They are written using a required citation style, where the most common are APA and MLA. We want to share some of the essays samples written on various topics using different citation styles.

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