The five paragraph essay is used as a test for
writing proficiency, and is often a timed exercise.
Getting started means getting organized: practice
is a vital part of writing effectively.
§ Analyze the assignment
and determine what is required. With a highlighter, note important
words that define the topic, then organize your plan
For example, you have been given this writing prompt:
You have a present that was really memorable. It could have been given for an important
occasion or just for no reason at all. Tell us about the present and why it was memorable.
Include the reason it was given, a description of it, and how you felt when you got it.
The objective is to write a narrative essay about a present you were given
The subject is a memorable present.
The three main subtopics are:
- the reason it was given
- a description of it
- and how you felt when you got it
§ Outline the five paragraph essay
Your essay will include these elements:
General Topic Sentence:
- Subtopic One: the reason it was given
- Subtopic Two: a description of it
- Subtopic Three: how you felt when you got it
|First Supporting Paragraph
Restate Subtopic One
Supporting Details or Examples
|Second Supporting Paragraph
Restate Subtopic Two
Supporting Details or Examples
|Third Supporting Paragraph
or Anticipate antithesis
Restate Subtopic Three or state antithesis
Supporting Details or Examples of why thesis is better
|Closing or Summary Paragraph
Synthesis and conclusion of the thesis rephrasing main topic and subtopics
is the usual conclusion. Often when submitting work for a
grade it is advisable to use your best comment here.
§ Write the essay!
Think small, then build the full essay gradually. Divide your essay into
sections and develop each separately and incrementally.
The Introductory Paragraph
- The opening paragraph sets the tone
It not only introduces the topic, but where you are going with it (the thesis). If
you do a good job in the opening, you will draw your reader into your
"experience." Put effort up front, and you will reap rewards.
- Write in the active voice
It is much more powerful. Do that for each sentence in the introductory essay. Unless you
are writing a personal narrative, do not use the pronoun "I."
- Varying sentence structure
Review to avoid the same dull pattern of always starting with the subject
of the sentence.
- Brainstorm to find the best supporting ideas
The best supporting ideas are the ones about which you have some knowledge. If you do not
know about them, you cannot do a good job writing about them. Don't weaken the essay with
ineffective argument. Before writing, spend some time being creative with the possible
thesis and supporting arguments. Put them down as they occur to you and then try and
develop a flow or pattern to the ideas. See "How to
- Practice writing introductory paragraphs on various topics
Even if you do not use them, they can be compared with the type of writing you are doing
now. It is rewarding to see a pattern of progress.
- Write a transition to establish the sub-topic
Each paragraph has to flow, one to the next.
- Write the topic sentence
The transition can be included in the topic sentence.
- Supporting ideas, examples, details must be specific to the sub-topic
The tendency in supporting paragraphs is to put in just about anything --avoid this.
The work you have made above with details and examples will help you keep focused.
- Vary sentence structure
Avoid repetitious pronouns and lists. Avoid beginning sentences the same way
(subject + verb + direct object).
The Ending or Summary Paragraph
This is a difficult paragraph to write effectively. You cannot assume that the reader
sees your point
- Restate the introductory thesis/paragraph with originality
Do not simply copy the first paragraph
- Summarize your argument with some degree of authority
this paragraph should leave your reader with no doubt as to your position or conclusion of
- Be powerful as this is the last thought that you are leaving with the
- If possible use your best sentence here as it is the last thought that
will be left with the grader. Often a B can be lifted to a B+ etc.
§ Edit and revise your essay
- Check your spelling and grammar
Subjects and verbs agree, and verb tenses are consistent
- Examine your whole essay for logic
Thought builds and flows?
Avoid gaps in logic, or too much detail.
Review individual sentences
- Use active verbs
Avoid passive constructions and the verb "to be"
- Use transitional words and phrases
Avoid sentences beginning with pronouns, constructions as "There are....,"
Example: "There is a need to proofread all works" becomes
"Proofreading is a must."
- Be concise
though vary the length and structure of sentences
Ask a knowledgeable friend to review and comment on your essay and to
repeat back what you are trying to say. You may be surprised. Their comments
should reflect your ideas.