Descriptive and Expository Essays: Difference

 Teacher and Class

Sometimes it happens that our teacher gives us a bad mark for our essay writing task. Our friends keep telling us that the essay was really great and it is just unfair what the teacher did to us. In a certain way they are right, but only if the teacher had not explained the difference between the two types of essays before giving you the task to write one of them. Anyway, from now on you will be an expert in this issue and next time you will definitely get the highest score on your exams or in essay writing classes.

Descriptive Essay

The descriptive essay is the kind of essay where you describe something. Be attentive: you describe, you show your opinion, but you are not trying to persuade someone or analyze the thing you are describing. Your task is to make the person imagine what you want to share, to let them feel what you felt while observing the object. It is all about sharing.

More Understanding

In order to understand what a descriptive essay is, try to remember how you would read some novel of a classic author. In those moments when he or she writes about the forest, or the ocean, or the house certain characters, they write it as a description. You can notice that there are a lot of adjectives and nothing you may call argumentation or reasoning. He or she may write about one dog and its appearance more than on one or two pages. The writer includes every detail, compares something, finds analogues in nature or in folklore. It is all a description.

What Can Be the Object?

You may write such essays about certain events, books, paintings and people. In this type of essay you should not be scared to sound poetical or metaphorical. Moreover, these are the features of the text that are most appreciated by readers. However, try not to be too abstract. The best descriptive essay is the one when you read it and feel or see the same things that the author was feeling or seeing. That is why you’d better write specific words and use more active verbs. It will definitely help the reader to see the picture which you are drawing by using words in your essay.

Expository Essay

The expository essay differs from the descriptive one. Here not only do you show the situation, but also tell people what to do in some way. It is about sharing your experience and instructing others in how something can be done or dealt with.

The best examples of expository essays are those recipes written over the Internet in certain cooking blogs. Moreover, every how-to article is written as an expository essay. Such essays demand interaction with a reader.

If a descriptive essay does not relate to the audience, then it is incorrect. While writing it think about talking to the reader, explaining them what to do and how to do it.

Cooking Bread

You do not include your own opinion, but you show the phases of the process in a logical sequence. That is why here it is better to use facts and specific actions than metaphors and abstract definitions. No need for associations or descriptions unless they are necessary for a better understanding of what is to be done.

Overall, you should remember one thing: in the descriptive essay you will need to describe the feelings you had when your best friend was leaving the country, what the weather was like and so on. In the expository essay you will need to specify what you did after this: played basketball, met new friends, went hiking and so on, and whether it helped.


We hope that you have caught the difference and will not misplace those two types of essays. Since it is a common mistake, you can check on the topic to make sure what is required (even if you feel you are not sure how the paper should be written, the topic is a great hint, since it will be hard to write a descriptive essay on how you deal with stress), or get back to this article and double-check.


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