What do I need to know about ... Explanatory Writing?

What's the Point?

· To inform the readers by providing facts that were previously unknown
· To make statements
· To give straight-forward unbiased detailed information

What are the Conventions

· Structures (clear and easy):
1. Clear opening that grabs the reader's attention and makes it clear why this explanation is relevant to them
2. General information that covers the most important things that your audience needs to know about the topic
3. More detailed information - but only that which is relevant to your audience
4. Summarizing information

Present tense
· First or third person
· Bullet point summary
· Connectives such as Moreover, furthermore, however, on the other hand, additionally lastly etc.
· Developing points in the main body
· Specific examples and sources
· Use of figures
· Confident tone(to make the essay sounds more reliable)
· Similes and metaphors to explain using simple clear comparisons that everyone can understand
· Rhetorical question (to get the reader involved, although not as a persuasive tool)
· Unbiased, no opinion
· Jargon (use of technical terms, to make the essay more reliable)

Hints & Tips


  • remember to read the question properly and tailor your text to the given audience
  • be direct and concise about your point
  • use transitions to connect ideas and main points (e.g. however, therefore, thus, also, additionally, moreover etc)
  • indentify a key word or a phrase in the previous sentence and repeat in transition sentences as you develop your points.
  • include background data about the topic
  • mention possible arguments about the topic
  • answer questions like what/who? why? what for? when? how?
  • remember to explain rather than persuade all throughout
  • use figures and facts


  • don't use too complicated sentence structures or overly formal words
  • don't repeat ideas.
  • avoid being too persuasive / biased
  • don't forget the title - often this will be bold and clearly outline the subject your text will be about
  • don't make information too vague
  • even though you want to be easily understood, don't make it too simple.

Example Questions

1. Write a letter which will inform parents about a school trip

Points for this question:
  • The question asks you to write a letter. Many ICGSE students end up writing articles which brings marks down.
  • Always stress that when a question asks you to inform or write an informative essay, you are required to simply explain and not persuade.
  • Never forget who the audience is. In this question, it wants you to inform parents so, use semi-formal language (when an exam asks to write to a certain type of audience, they give you clues on the type of language complexity you must use.)

Example Exam Answer

Example 1:
Newtown High School,
Newlands Road,
NN1 1NN.
12 October 2005

Dear Parents,
We are having a trip to Newtown Outdoor Pursuits Centre on 10 December for all Year 11 students. We shall leave at about 9 o'clock and will be back during the evening.

At the Centre, students will be able to do whatever they want, eg rock climbing, orienteering, abseiling and canoeing. They will need a packed lunch but no special clothes.

We think they will have fun there, and the cost will be £10 each which you should send in to school as soon as you can.

Please let me know if your child does not want to go.
Yours sincerely,
M Jones

This is what a student might write in the exam.
Mistakes to improve:
  • Add a title because this helps the reader know what the info is about
  • The information is too vague. Parents don't know the exact times and places of departure and arrival
  • Parents aren't given info about how to find more info about the trip

Example 2:
Newtown High School,
Newlands Road,
NN1 1NN.
12 October 2005

Dear Parent/Guardian/Carer,

Visit to Newtown Outdoor Pursuits Centre

We are planning to take all Year 11 students on a visit to Newtown Outdoor Pursuits Centre on Thursday 10 December.
We shall leave school immediately after registration in the morning, and we intend to be back at the main school entrance by 7 o'clock in the evening. We shall be travelling by Brown's Executive Coaches, which are fitted with seat belts and speed limiters. If our return is delayed for any reason, you may contact the company for information on 01234-567890.

Six teachers and several parent volunteers will accompany the students, who will be in groups of no more than ten throughout the day, always with at least one adult.

If your son/daughter comes on the trip, s/he will need to bring a packed lunch, and sufficient drinks for an energetic day! No spending money is necessary, as there are no shops at the Centre.

School uniform should not be worn for this trip; students should wear comfortable old clothes that will not be damaged by water or mud; any specialist equipment will be provided by the Centre.

Newtown Outdoor Pursuits Centre offers a range of adventurous activities such as rock-climbing, abseiling, orienteering and canoeing. They are all supervised by fully-trained centre staff, and excellent first-aid facilities are available should any minor accidents occur.

We have arranged this visit as part of our students' personal and social education programme, to help them develop skills of teamwork and of supporting each other in challenging situations.

We hope that you will agree to your son/daughter taking part in this day. If so, will you please sign and return the slip at the bottom of this letter with a donation of £10 (cash, or cheques made payable to 'Newtown High School Fund') to cover the cost of travel and use of facilities at the Centre. We regret that we may have to cancel the trip if insufficient donations are received.

Please contact me at the school if you wish to know any more about this visit.

Yours sincerely,
M Jones (Headteacher)

This is an example of an essay that has given the information needed by parents
What's good about it:
  • More information about the trip (dates, times, places, who are the teachers accompanying the students, activites done, aim of the trip, what the student needs to bring/necessities, contact information at the beginning of the letter)