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Writing Expository Essays: Grabbing Your Readers’ Attention and Leaving a Lasting Impression

In Part 1 of this two-part series, you learnt about crafting effective hooks and impactful conclusions for the narrative essay. These are key to grabbing your readers’ attention as you take them through a journey, before closing your story on a poignant, reflective note. Similarly, in the expository essay, you need to employ these principles to capture your readers’ attention and leave them a lasting impression.

In this post, you will learn strategies to craft effective hooks and impactful conclusions which you can use in the expository essay.


1. Crafting the Hook

Amidst the sea of essays, what makes yours worth reading? Give your reader a strong reason to pick up your essay and sink into your insights. Your hook/opening statement plays a key role in making your essay a choice pick.Here are 3 ways you can open your expository essay:


1.1 Quote

Nelson Mandela once proclaimed: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Starting your essay with a quote might be a common strategy but it is no mean feat. You need to find a quote that is relevant to your topic and preferably know who said it. It would be better still if the person is a famous personality so it is someone your readers can easily relate to. Looking for just the right quote can be hard, so if you want to use this technique, start a collection of quotes across various subjects/ themes and make it a point to memorise them so you can easily deploy them in your essay. Try to avoid the cliché and overused ones (like “Be the change you want to see in the world.”).


1.2 Question

1) Have you wondered if people can truly attain happiness?

2) What would it take to make you happy?

3) Are you happy in life?

Another interesting way to start your essay is posing a question. This may seem easy but crafting a good question requires some skill. Phrase your question in a thought-provoking manner such that readers are prompted to look inward, dream big and come up with multiple answers. As they wonder about your question, seize the chance to show why your essay matters — why it addresses that pressing question you have posed at the start.

In the above example, #3 is too straightforward a question that might simply get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for an answer. It does not open up possibilities. Try #1 that provokes thought about what true happiness means or #2 that prompts the reader to think about the things that make them happy.


1.3 Real World Examples

From tense relationships owing to differing views between you and your parents, to an Indian expatriate hurling vulgarities at a security guard, and Britain’s long-drawn deadlock over Brexit, disagreements and fallouts abound in our world.

Yet another effective way to start an essay is to offer some familiar examples or scenarios from daily life or current affairs. Strike a chord with your readers by citing some headline news or everyday struggles,as shown in the example above. These are joined by the same topical thread of “conflict” — first on a personal level (tense relationships with parents), then on a societal level (hurling of vulgarities) and finally on a global level (Brexit). This gives your essay breadth, showing that you have considered the topic of conflict on varying levels.


2. Crafting the Conclusion

You have painstakingly made your arguments and are now coming to the end of your essay. How do you drive home your arguments and leave a lasting impact on your readers? Apart from summarising your points (in other words; not a repetition of your topic sentences), make an impactful ending in these 3 ways:


2.1 Recommendation

It would be unfair to say that young people are only obsessed with celebrities and fame; they deserve greater acknowledgement for their altruism and foresight, and may be our hope for the future.

End your essay by proposing a change in mindset or perspective on the topic. In the above example, the writer calls on readers not to belittle or dismiss young people as materialistic, but recognise them for their charitable and inspirational acts. It calls on readers to believe in a promising next generation.When you make a recommendation, you speak to your reader by championing a different way of thinking or action (e.g. support your child/our young people in their endeavours).


2.2 Warning

If parents continue to mollycoddle their children and not allow them to be accountable for their actions, our next generation will become one that is self-entitled, shrinks from responsibility and unable to fend for themselves.

Another way to end on a strong note is to leave a warning. Confront your readers by showing how their actions, if left unchanged, will result in dire consequences. A strongly worded warning is intended to instil fear and urgency in them, such as the example shown above —how the next generation will become self-entitled, cowardly and weak if they continue to be pampered by their parents.


2.3 Question

Can we imagine a future dominated by human robots?

Another effective way to close your essay is to leave your reader in deep thought by posing a question. Its intention is similar to a warning, just that a question leaves the possibilities to the imagination of the reader — for better or for worse. It is effective because it makes the reader ruminate on what he/she has read and hopefully come to grapple with the (harsh/heartening) truth as revealed in the essay’s arguments.

We have learnt strategies to craft an effective hook and impactful conclusion for expository essays. The key to a good expository start is to use quotes, questions or real world examples to usher your reader into your essay, while the key to a poignant, gripping ending isto make a recommendation or warning, or pose a question. Have a go at these strategies and hone your ability to persuade!


Extracts taken from: Present Perfect2020 Issues 1, 4/5 and 6.


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