From the Book:
“The Anglo-Saxons,” Emerson said, “are the hands of the world”—they, more than any other people, turn the wheels of the world, do its work, keep things moving. Without lingering to quarrel with Emerson, or to justify him, we may safely assert that Expository Writing is the hands of literature. In a world which man even as yet only slightly understands, surrounded as he is by his fellows who constantly baffle his intelligence, and shut up within the riddle of himself, Exposition attempts to explain, to make clear, to tear away the clouds of mystery and ignorance.
Exposition attempts to answer the endless curiosity of man. “What is this?” man asks, of things and of ideas. “Who are you?” he addresses to his fellows. “How did this originate, what caused it, where is it going, what will it do, how is it operated?” he repeats from birth to grave. Perhaps the most interesting question in the world is the never-ending “What does this mean to me, how does it affect me, how can I use it?” These are the questions—and there are more of them—which Exposition tries to answer. Obviously, in making the answers the writing will often be garbed in the sack suit of business, will sometimes roll up its sleeves, will pull on the overalls or tie the apron. Then it may explain the workings of a machine, the wonders of a printing press, or may show the mysteries of Congressional action, or the organization of a department store, or even tell how to bake a lemon pie. But it may also appear[Pg 2] in the opulence of evening costume, and criticize the ensemble of an orchestra, discuss the diplomacy of Europe, address us in appreciation of the Arts. It may assume the fine informality of the fireside and give us of its most delightful charms in discussing the joys of living and learning, the whimsicalities of the world. In any case it will be answering the endless curiosity of man.
Full-text Online: Expository Writing by Mervin James Curl