How to Write an Effective Five Paragraph Essay
While professional writers and/or renowned authors seldom make use of the essay format known as the “five-paragraph” format, students are still given these assignments. This is because this format is good at helping students to organize and develop their ideas and thoughts in written assignments. The five paragraph format is also a good template for providing full and clear responses to the essay-style questions that are common in examinations. Not surprisingly, this essay format is comprised of five clearly defined paragraphs:
- An introduction
- Three main body paragraphs
- A conclusion.
This guide examines these paragraphs one by one and the purpose they serve. We also look at the use of transitions, the adhesive that binds every part of an essay into a cohesive unit.
An introductory paragraph should begin with an overview of the topic. From here, the writer should move on to create a specific and clearly written statement that sets out their main point or argument – a thesis statement as it is generally called. It is usual for many types of essays to begin with a “hook,” which is a way of getting the attention of one’s readers. Often this is an interesting story, something that challenges the reader, a surprising fact, or something similar to hook an audience. The thesis statement should set out the writer’s main point or argument and say what the main body paragraphs will be about. This statement should not be longer than a sentence or two.
Supposing your essay is discussing car safety, you may want to provide some statistics in your opening paragraph about road safety and survival or mortality rates. It may be that you want to relate a story about an acquaintance or loved one who escaped death because of the airbag in their car. Your thesis statement would then briefly summarize why you think airbags are vital in vehicles. Then you could expand on each of your reasons in the subsequent body paragraphs of your essay.
Writing the Three Paragraphs for the Main Body of Your Essay
Each paragraph in the body of your essay should be devoted to a single example, reason or point that supports your central thesis statement. It is important to begin each of these paragraphs with a clearly-written topic sentence. This sentence is similar to a miniature-version thesis that signals the main idea or point for the paragraph it relates to. This should be followed by a discussion or explanation elaborating on the point you want to make. Wherever appropriate, use clear and detailed examples to get your ideas across in a concise, clear and persuasive manner.
The closing paragraph of your essay – the conclusion – should begin with a restatement of all main points and ideas. You should, however, paraphrase your thesis instead of directly repeating it. You can then add some additional sentences to emphasize the importance of your subject or topic and how noteworthy your point of view is. What thoughts, ideas, or feelings would you like your readers to leave your essay with? In many ways, concluding paragraphs are the opposite of introductions in terms of structure e.g. in how they start off being very specific and then get quite general towards the end.
Use of Transitions
A writer uses transitions (in the form of words and phrases) to link paragraphs - mostly the body paragraphs. Moving sharply from point to point in an abrupt manner is not recommended. Hence, it is important to use transitional words at the beginning or closing stages of each paragraph to show how ideas are inter-related.
Transitions are necessary between individual paragraphs. It is permissible to include them in a topic sentence, in the closing sentences at a paragraph’s end, or at both beginning and end. Use words that compare and contrast things to indicate relationships between paragraphs. For example, use transitions where:
- One particular paragraph covers a point in favor of the topic and the following paragraph a point against it i.e. “on one hand …” ”
- A subsequent paragraph covers a point of greater importance i.e. “more importantly …”
- A paragraph describes a historical or earlier event i.e. “well before …”
- A paragraph offers an alternative approach i.e. time versus money.
Think about paragraph topics and brainstorm to devise ways of linking or connecting them.
Some form of transition is also likely to be required to link the third (last) paragraph in the body of your essay to the conclusion. You could consider summarizing the last of the body paragraphs by recapping on the points or ideas in the earlier paragraphs. There is no need to completely restate each topic or point, which is done in the concluding paragraph, but it may be sensible to refer to a particular detail or example to unite ideas and show your essay is coming to an end.