How to Write the Standard 5 Paragraph Essay
A Girl Who No Longer Exists
Wed October 22nd, 2008
Many people, teachers and students alike, loathe the five paragraph essay. They call it constraining because it's too formulaic or they complain that it requires too narrow a line of thinking. I'm not saying that I like this form of writing, but I am saying that most high schools and colleges require you to write one at some point, whether it's as a homework assignment or part of a final exam. The theory is that the five paragraph essay helps you choose a subject, hone in on a topic, and develop and defend an argument about that topic. Of course, like tennis or sewing, writing a five paragraph essay is not an exercise that comes naturally to everybody. If you fall into that category, here are some tips for making your next essay a success:
Begin with an introduction: You've probably heard it before---your intro has got to hook the reader. Your first sentence or two should present some kind of novelty, maybe a quote, an interesting fact, a pun, or some element of humor. Never launch right into your argument without first introducing your topic. It will undoubtedly confuse or bore you reader. In a format that's so rigid, the introduction and the conclusion are the two places where you can actually get creative.
Present your thesis: Think hard about what your thesis, or argument, is. Since it's the crux of your paper, it's important that your thesis is clear and concise. Be sure that your thesis is debatable and answers a question. A typical example of a question your thesis may answer is this: Is abortion morally right or wrong and why? Your thesis would then either read (hopefully in more sophisticated language than this and without using the word "I"), "Abortion is right/wrong because __." It's customary to insert your thesis in your introductory paragraph. Try to place it either in the last or second to last sentence of that paragraph.