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Why write an essay? There are lots of ways of writing about society and lots of reasons for doing it. You can chat on the Net with a friend and tell her about some issue you have just seen a programme about on the television.
Or you might be the sort who keeps a diary or a blog in which you give your opinions on current events. Some people write articles or letters to a newspaper or a magazine to share their views with a wider audience.
The way of writing about social issues that you will encounter most often at school is the expository essay.
Expository means explaining or revealing, and there are at least two good reasons for writing one: One is because your teacher has told you to. It is part of your course work and you are given a grade for it.
In fact, at the end of this year your ability to write expository essays is likely to play be an important part in deciding your final grade. But there is another answer too, and it is related to the origin of the essay as a written genre.
What you are trying or attempting to do is to understand an issue, and to share that understanding with somebody else. Writing an expository essay is a way of getting to grips with an issue and finding out what your own viewpoint is.
Put simply, an essay is an attempt to answer a question.
We have all seen those final courtroom scenes in TV series, where the opposing attorneys, one for the defence and one for the prosecution, are summing up for the jury. They are both talking about the same events — a murder, for example — and the same individuals.
But they are presenting perhaps very different understandings of those events: The writer of an expository essay is doing something similar. Let us say you are writing about the British Empire, for example.
It is an immensely complex subject, of course.
As you will have learnt from the first chapter in Access to English: Social Studies, it is also largely in the past. But that does not mean that everyone agrees on WHAT happened.
For example, some people see the British Empire as a positive step in world history on the path towards globalisation and development. When you write about the subject, you will have to decide what your point of view is going to be. Obviously, you do not have to choose one extreme or the other — it is perfectly admissible to argue that there are both negative and positive aspects.
But whatever your view is, the success of your essay will depend on how well you argue your case. Characteristics of the expository essay Just as with the courtroom summing up, there are a number of accepted norms and traditions for how an expository essay should be.
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