How Do You Write an Expressive Essay?

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According the University of Texas, El Paso, an expressive essay focuses on the writer's feelings, experiences, emotions and memories. This kind of writing is most commonly written in the first-person ("I" or "me") and usually doesn't contain any second-person language referring back to the reader ("you" or "yours"). Expressive writing is typically written less formally than academic writing, to reflect more personal thoughts.

Unlike most academic essays, an expressive essay doesn't have to be based around a well-defined thesis. The point of the writing is to communicate an impression or feeling, not to fit those feelings into a thesis and then prove them in the body paragraphs. However, an expressive essay still needs structure, and should follow a narrative sequence that readers can follow (presenting events out of order, for example, might confuse readers).

An expressive essay is also known as a descriptive essay and makes prominent use of descriptive language. This means describing people, places and things so that readers get a sense of them. Expressive writing makes use of the five senses – particularly sight and sound. It describes what things looked like, what they sounded like, how they felt, how they smelled. Expressive essays also frequently make use of dialogue, depicting what people said and how they said it—trying to imitate the music of human speech.