The five-paragraph essay is a standard writing exercise for students in both grade school and college. It is also a common part of many national and international standardized tests.
Even for professionals who are long out of school, learning to write an essay can be extraordinarily beneficial. The time and effort spent learning how to present an argument coherently and concisely is a useful skill in life, especially in a career.
In other words, knowing how to write a five-paragraph essay is pretty important. In this article, we’ll explore the basics of a five-paragraph essay format, as well as tips and tricks to write compelling and high-quality essays yourself.
What Is a Five-Paragraph Essay?
As the name indicates, a five-paragraph essay is a prose composition that consists of five paragraphs. Unlike other essay formats, it has a strict layout that includes an introductory paragraph, three subtopics (or body paragraphs), and a conclusion paragraph. This formulaic style helps the writer – and the reader – focus on the content, rather than the structure.
The Introduction (Paragraph 1)
One rookie mistake that students make when writing a five-paragraph essay is to jump into addressing specific arguments (which should be in the body) in the first paragraph. Always remember, the introduction of your essay should start with broad sentences, revealing the central idea of your essay, not the details and individual arguments.
An ideal introduction must also include some necessary background information about the subject you’re writing about. If possible, try to quote an expert or add statistics that can demonstrate the importance of the issue you’re going to address throughout your essay.
You should also, if possible, start it with a “hook,” something that grabs the reader’s attention. For example, you can introduce a story, or a real-life example of the importance of the subject. Depending on the subject, humor is a tried-and-true hook, as well.
Below, check out some quick tips for the introduction paragraph:
- Keep your introduction short and sweet, generally, five to eight sentences.
- Write an engaging opening sentence to grab readers’ attention.
- If possible, try to include a thesis in the last sentences of your statement.
The two big things to remember are this: the introduction is meant to draw the reader in, whether by stressing the importance of the topic, or offering levity to entertain. Whatever you choose, make sure the introduction style fits with the topic at hand.
Pro Tip: Sometimes, it is challenging to determine exactly what information is appropriate for your essay’s introduction. In that case, you can write your body paragraphs first and then move to the introduction party. It may sound weird, but it is helpful.
Paragraphs 2–4 (Body)
In these paragraphs, your primary focus should be describing, arguing, and explaining the points you listed in your introductory paragraph. You can start with writing your points and then using 3-4 sentences in each paragraph to offer up supporting evidence for your main arguments.
Keep the paragraph lengths between 5 to 8 sentences. Also, make sure all the sentences in each paragraph are unified and around the main purpose of, not only the individual paragraph’s point, but also the essay’s main subject.
While organizing your essay, don’t overlook the importance of being consistent and logical, making certain the argument you present unfolds in a natural sequence. Using transition words like “but,” “so,” and “because,” can help you move smoothly from one paragraph to the next.
Below, check out some tips to arrange your body paragraphs.
- Make sure each body paragraph has a standard format.
- Briefly summarize your point in the first sentence of your paragraph
- Write one or two debating sentences that support your topic sentences
- At last, disclose evidence for your statements. It can be anything, such as a statistic, an example, a quote, a fact, and more.
- Try to keep word length almost similar in each body paragraph
Pro Tip: If you find it difficult to transition from one topic to the next, it may be beneficial to reorganize the order of your points. For example, if Point #1 does not transition naturally into Point #2, check to see if Point #3 makes a better first point. The main idea here is to make certain that your argument develops naturally, so that the reader can follow along and arrive at the exact same conclusion that you do.
Paragraph 5 (The Conclusion)
In the final or concluding paragraph, you need to summarize the key points of your essay and restate your main claim. The opening sentence may include supporting claims you argued in the body paragraphs while the next few sentences should give further thought on your essay’s subject. Your wrap-up should also leave the reader satisfied with your argument, but also interested in learning more.
Pro Tip: To make your final section more interesting, you can end the conclusion with a question, prompting the reader to consider the topic in more depth on his or her own. As noted above, leaving the reader wanting more – without feeling cheated out of information – is a sure-fire way to leave a lasting impression, and a thoughtful question can do just that.
How Long Should a Five-Paragraph Essay Be?
Besides obviously being five paragraphs long, these types of essays should be at least 500-1,000 words with approximately 100-200 words per paragraph. This will like come out to 1-4 pages depending on whether you single or double space. This will of course depend on your teacher’s instructions.
No matter whether you’re a student or an industry professional, you should learn how to write an essay. The ability to argue a point succinctly and thoroughly is a transferable skill that will be important to you, not only while you’re a student, but also as a professional in a career. And, really, why wouldn’t you want to improve your performance in any way you can?