Three Proven Steps for Writing a Five Paragraph Essay

Successfully writing a five paragraph essay involves following a specific formula. Once you learn the basic formula, the facts and figures need only to be plugged in. The beauty of this is the way the formula can be expanded to longer essays or formal research papers.

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More often than not your subject will be assigned by your instructor. By the time your first assignment rolls around you will know a little about him/her. When it comes to their own opinions, teachers should try to stay neutral as possible, however they are in fact human, and thus will give you clues on where they “stand.”

Use these clues as you start outlining your essay. DON’T TRY TO WRITE AN ESSAY WITHOUT AN OUTLINE! Do you think your teacher will agree or disagree with your projected thesis? If the answer is yes, the use of facts and the logic of your writing should convince the teacher that you have proven your thesis. If the answer is no, then take the opposite approach.

STEP 1. INTRODUCTORY PARAGRAPH
This is arguably the most difficult portion of writing a five paragraph essay. Here you need to pique the reader’s interest, present your thesis, and give at least thee “points of proof” which you will use to solidify your argument.

It is not a good idea to present your thesis as your first sentence. Give the reader a bit of background information that (a) you know more about the subject than just the thesis which follows, and (b) you “hook” the reader as if you are “hooking a fish”.

Let me give you an example. If I were writing an essay on the sport of heavyweight boxing, my thesis would be “arguably the best heavyweight champion of the world was Muhammad Ali”. Next I would make the statement that he fought during an era of an extraordinary number of fighters, many of whom could have been champion in bygone eras. Then I would name some.

Now that the “hook” is set, the thesis or supporting facts would be written. There is no set rule on what should come next, the thesis or facts. I prefer the thesis after the introductory sentences and then at least three supporting facts. I would count the number of times he regained his championship and include the fact that he fought his most difficult battle of his career outside the ring against the U.S. military.

STEP 2. BODY PARAGRAPHS
The body paragraphs when writing a five paragraph essay are the easiest to write. Here is where the evidence is presented to back up your “points of proof” given in the introduction.

The key to the body is the logic with which it is written. It can be done chronologically or by building on the strength of the evidence, leaving the most compelling for the last paragraph.

STEP 3. CONCLUSION
The conclusion must do two things. It must “conclude” the essay and reach a conclusion (opinion). By that I mean when the last period goes on the page, you have nothing more to say. You have restated your thesis using different words, and YOU HAVE REACHED A CONCLUSION!

Your body paragraphs have given enough evidence that you can clearly put all the facts together and without writing “in conclusion”, the reader knows where you stand on the topic at hand.


PITFALL
DON’T USE ABSOLUTE WORDS! Words such as “everyone”, "never”,” always”, etc. can back you into a writer’s corner that is impossible to exit. Two good words to know are: “arguably” and “virtually”. Saying “Muhammad Ali was arguably the best heavyweight champion ever” gives some room for argument and at the same time tells the reader that you believe he was.

“Virtually” is just as important. “Virtually everyone believes that the U.S. landed astronauts on the moon in the late sixties and seventies.” To this day some don’t. But by phrasing it as above you have allowed the reader to see that you are aware of that fact. If even one person does not believe it, and you use the word “everyone”, your argument is null and void.

This is the formula for writing a five paragraph essay. Once you are familiar and comfortable with it, your essay writing skills will bring greater satisfaction as well as better grades. And don’t forget, the same formula can be applied to longer essays/term papers.

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