Writing skills

Writing to explain

Writing to explain

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Tutor: Joel


Writing to explain

​​In a nutshell

Writing to explain is the act of providing previously unknown facts to readers that inform them, through your writing. In this summary, you will also be learning the features that are needed when successfully writing to explain. 

The 3 W's

When writing to explain, it is best to ask yourself:

  • What you are writing? This helps you decide the form of your writing.
  • Who you are writing for? This helps decide the audience of your writing.
  • Why you are writing? This will determine the purpose of your writing.

By asking yourself these three questions, you are then able to work out the direction and layout your writing will take.


The structure of your essay should be logical from beginning to end, so the reader has an understanding of the subject in a well-presented and coherent way. By structuring your work in a logical way, it shows you know that writing to explain - enabling the reader to fully grasp the picture - is the key purpose. As such, it is best to break down your writing into sections of information that make your new facts easier to convey to the uninformed reader. 

Write your essay using simple sentences to make clear points, followed by complex sentences to explain and expand on each one in depth. Mixing up your sentence structure keeps your reader interested.


A great way to proceed with writing to explain is to consider and answer any questions a reader may have on the subject. For example, if the topic is about travel, you could answer in your writing: "Where to travel" and "Why to travel." If you need help planning, think about what you would want to know if you were new to this topic and structure your work to answer this.

A great way to check your work is to re-read it as if you knew nothing about the topic and see how much you learn from it. An effective piece of explanation writing will be simple to understand yet detailed and fully realised in its approach to the information.

Conventions used



​Present tense
This is used to explain something that is factual and specific.
Connecting words
These are great ways to link ideas and explanations.
Facts and statistics
Facts back up the statements you make and provide evidence to your points.
Similes and metaphors
These are useful tools for drawing similarities to a subject the reader may be more familiar with.
Confident tone
A confident tone ensures you sound reliable and creates trust with the reader.
Explanation of topic-specific language
When a topic has language that is specific to it, it is useful to explain its definitions as it helps to understand.
Unbiased language
You are not writing to give judgement but instead to explain why.

Top tips

  • Avoid vagueness. You are trying to explain, not let them guess.
  • Remember, you are explaining and not trying to persuade.
  • Tailor your writing to the task given to you. If you have been asked to write a letter, address it as "Dear Reader," or if you have been asked to write a recipe, structure it accordingly.
  • Don't overcomplicate your work to the point where it is hard to understand. 
  • Don't give too many opinions in your work. You are not writing to persuade. 

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FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

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