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What Are the Best Tips for Writing a Five-Paragraph Essay?

By Ray Hawk
Updated May 23, 2024
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Writing a five-paragraph essay can be relatively quick and easy if the overall question or theme that the essay addresses is defined first, as well as any immediately related points that focus on that theme. There are several different types of five-paragraph essay formats, but many of them involve very similar writing styles that can be used to create a rough draft. Later, the writer can go back and refine an initial essay to make it conform to nearly any required format.

One of the main concepts to keep in mind when writing a five-paragraph essay is that each paragraph should focus on one main idea. A good approach is to use the first paragraph as an introduction to the main theme of the essay, and as a brief summation of the points that will be backed up later. Paragraphs two and three can go into more detail about the main theme of the essay and include supporting ideas that reinforce it. Paragraph four is a good place to provide background on how the previous statements and conclusions were reached. The last paragraph should be a summary of what has been learned and what the ideas presented in the essay might mean for the future.

An example of a descriptive essay about a winning sports team might utilize the first paragraph to briefly describe the games played in the latest season, and who the star players on the team were. The second and third paragraphs could go into detail about the statistics for the team and the supporting players who contributed to the winning season. The fourth paragraph would be a good place to provide a brief history of the team, and how they got to where they are today. Concluding the description of the team in the last paragraph would include prose about their prospects for the future and how they compare to other leading teams in the same league or division.

Five types of commonly required forms of the five-paragraph essay for school projects include descriptive, persuasive, contrasting, narrative, and evaluation essays. Persuasive, contrasting, and evaluation essays are all based on a similar premise &mash; analysis of an idea in light of other ideas or points of view. Descriptive and narrative essays are also similar in approach, with the difference being that narrative essays are usually written with the point of view of the author in mind, and descriptive essays attempt to be unbiased and detached from the subject matter.

The most commonly required five-paragraph essay in formal education is the descriptive essay. It also tends to be the easiest to write. Writing tips for a descriptive essay include keeping the writing simple and focused on the main theme, and, where appropriate, trying to answer the basic questions of who, what, when, where, and why. As the essay is composed, ideas may come to mind about papers or literature that should be referenced as supporting evidence, and notes can be made within each paragraph to go back and find these details later to add to the final draft.

Many five-paragraph essay writing guides tend to make the whole process overly intimidating and complex, suggesting extensive outlines, amassing large amounts of background information, and micromanaging the overall structure of the essay. If a basic understanding of the points that the writer wants convey is clear, it is best to write the essay and use it as a rough draft. Proofreading and refining after a rough draft has been written is often much easier than trying to get it perfect the first time around by intense preparation and research.

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Discussion Comments

By umbra21 — On Dec 02, 2013

@Mor - Yeah, it kind of annoys me that there doesn't seem to be much call for writing essays in daily life, when it was absolutely drilled into us at high school and university. I know some people do it, but even then they don't have to follow exactly the same format (scientific essays, for example, have a set format).

Just seems like a waste of time to teach us how to write essays and make us do it over and over when it isn't that much of a skill. Now, if they had been making us present information as a powerpoint, that would have been a useful skill. Even a video or a booklet or a speech would be more useful than an essay.

I guess it was easier for the teacher to mark it if we all did the same thing though.

By Mor — On Dec 01, 2013

@pleonasm - I've heard of that one. I've also heard people say that you should order the paragraphs in the middle so that they go from strongest to weakest point and then put the strongest point in the end and the second strongest in the beginning.

I've heard other people say that it should be the opposite of that and that you should lead with the strongest, but if you are writing for a teacher, they have to read the whole thing anyway, so I do think it makes sense to close with your strongest point since you don't have to grab their attention like you might have to in another piece of writing.

By pleonasm — On Nov 30, 2013

My high school teacher always used to talk about the hamburger method, where you thought about the introduction and the conclusion as the bun holding everything together, while the paragraphs in the middle were the flavor and the meat.

So you didn't want to put anything original in the first or last paragraph, since they were just there as support. He also made us think about the structure of the middle paragraphs and how they should always have a statement and then something to backup the statement. He was pretty good at breaking things down so that we could understand them.

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