How to Write a 5-Paragraph Essay – Back to Middle School
By the time you leave high school and move onto college, you are used to writing some pretty lengthy essays – essays that have involved complex topics, probably some research, may have been 4-5 or more pages in Iength, and involved many sections and/or paragraphs. Now you are in an English comp class, and your professor wants to review how to write a 5-paragraph essay. So for starters, s/he simply assigns a 5-paragraph essay on any topic of your choice, in order to assess your ability. This will be a “breeze,” you think. Not so fast. If you have not written one in years, you will face some challenges here.
Picking a Topic
Remember, you have been writing complex essays for quite some time, and the topics have been complex. Now you must find a topic that is narrow enough to be covered in five paragraphs, and you may experience some difficulty. Are you going to write on governmental environmental policy? Probably not, given that people have written books on this. No, you will have to really chip away until you can narrow that topic to something that can be covered in 3 body paragraphs. You might be able to address a single bill that is before Congress on corporate emissions regulations. The five paragraph essay just really limits your options.
One of the best 5-paragraph essay tips in topic selection is to get online and Google “5-paragraphs essay topics” in a broad subject area that interests you. You find loads of them from which to choose, and the topics have already been sufficiently narrowed for you.
Deciding on Your Purpose
Like any other essay, you will have a purpose – to inform, to describe, to persuade, to compare/contrast, to analyze, to define, etc. So choose your purpose based upon the topic. For example, if you are going to present the causes of someone catching a cold, you essay will be informative – sometimes called explanatory or expository.
The Five Paragraph Essay Format
You only have three paragraphs to present your information or argument, so you will need to choose the three most important points you intend to make. In the case of the causes of the common cold, for example, you may want to select these three things:
Lack of adequate sleep and nutrition
Being in closed up spaces where germs can just hang out and enter a person’s nasal passages
Sharing drinks, kisses, and such with individuals who have colds or at least a virus cold germ in their systems.
Now you have your three body paragraphs!
The Five Paragraph Graphic Organizer
The best graphic organizer for the 5-paragraphic essay is the outline. Let’s take the cold essay as an example:
I. Introduction: Here you will state your topic and your thesis. “The common cold is at best an irritant and at worst a virus infection that can land a person flat on his/her back. It seems that avoiding those circumstances in which that nasty little germ can get into your system is a good idea. Here are three causes of the cold and methods by which you can reduce your exposure.”
II. Body Paragraphs
A. Lack of Healthy Habits
1. Lack of sleep lower immune system and colds are harder to fight off.
2. Lack of good nutrition forces the body to use stored nutrients to produce energy and thus there is not enough energy to fight virus infections.
B. Close Quarters
1. Myth that cold weather causes colds
2. More colds in cold weather because people are in closed spaces and germs hang around in the air. Many cold viruses are airborne
C. Too Much Intimate Contact with Others Who have Colds or the Germ within Their Systems
1. Sharing drinks, eating utensils that are not properly cleaned
2. Sharing kisses and other close contact.
3. Not washing hands often to remove viruses that have settled there
III. Conclusion: Staying healthier this winter is possible if you understand these causes and avoid putting yourself in harm’s way.
Checking Over Your Essay Before Submission
Here is your checklist to use before you submit you essay:
Do you have the right organization? The format of a 5-paragrph essay?
Have you used good transitions between your body paragraphs?
Do all of the details in each paragraph relate to your topic sentence for that paragraph?
Have you covered the topic sufficiently?
Is your essay free from grammatical errors?
The key to a great 5-paragraph is, first, topic selection, second, good tight structure, and third, solid grammar and composition.