Writing can be either exciting or exacting depending on one’s patience and passion, hence not everyone’s cup of joe.
That said, writing even a short, snappy five-paragraph essay can require a bit of time and attention – at least for those who are not used to it.
Luckily enough, that’s what we’re dealing with today. If you’re paying enough attention, this post’s intro should already be giving you some idea of how to start one.
Writing a five-paragraph essay
- Write the hook and thesis statement in the first paragraph.
- Write the conflict of the essay in the second paragraph.
- Write the supporting details of the conflict in the third paragraph.
- Write the weakest arguments in the fourth paragraph.
- Write the summary and call-to-action prompt in the fifth paragraph.
Determining what to include in a five-paragraph essay
While there are hundreds, even thousands, of ways to write a five-paragraph essay, there are some universal processes that we can meanwhile follow.
The overall organization of the writer’s thought matters in any kind of writing piece. So, it is necessary that you fully understand what you’re being asked to do before writing a piece.
Topic, purpose, audience, rhetorical appeal, and length
Understanding what needs to be done means knowing your essay’s topic, purpose, audience, rhetorical appeal, as well as desired length.
Topic means the subject matter entailed by your essay, such as when you are asked to write an essay about yourself or people you admire.
“Purpose” means the core intent of writing your essay, which can be done in an argumentative, expository, narrative, or descriptive way.
“Audience” refers to your target reader or readers. You would know this by answering the question “Who will read and assess my essay?”
A “rhetorical appeal” is the “persuasive act” of your essay. It demonstrates the qualities of your essay that make it worth reading and even sharing.
Meanwhile, “length” means the measurable elements in your essay, such as the number of characters, words, sentences, or paragraphs.
Knowing these five important parts should give a head start when you write an essay, no matter what kind of setting it is.
If you are writing to apply for a particular job role, you may also be required to write a cover letter for your essay by the organization.
The possibility of this particular scenario should be enough to let us realize how important writing skills are, which is why we need to deliberately learn them at school.
In some cases, students may just mindlessly think that it is okay to cut and paste texts from online sources because their teacher won’t find out anyway.
Contrary to common belief, teachers, especially the most seasoned and passionate ones actually do read their students’ work.
So, by no stretch, one might actually end up writing an apology letter for plagiarism if and when worse comes to worst.
The key to preventing this tragedy is to always bear in mind that sincerity evokes originality; when you love what you do, you can always generate fresh ideas.
Meanwhile, the key to creating a good essay is to pre-plan what you need to include as well as what you need to exclude in the writing piece.
Now, how can we manifest all the things explained above in a five-paragraph essay? Let us find out below.
Paragraph 1 of the five-paragraph essay — The “plot”
The first or introductory paragraph can be considered the “plot” of the essay. This is where you would need to write your hook and thesis statement.
The hook is what grabs your readers’ attention from the start. It should be written in such a way that it anchors or “hooks” them to what they are reading.
You can use a general or all-inclusive idea for this part to make your readers relate to what you are trying to say.
Meanwhile, the thesis statement briefly tells your readers what your topic is all about. In other words, it explains what they need to expect from the piece.
The thesis statement is perhaps the most important element that you should never miss out on because it is what links your thoughts as a writer to your audience.
Within the intro paragraph, you could add other ideas that would link your hook to your thesis statement, depending on the impression you would like to evoke.
Paragraph 2 of the five-paragraph essay — The “plot’s conflict”
The second paragraph is where you slowly build the tension and explain your plot in more detail. We might as well call it the conflict of the story you are trying to tell.
Here, you should be able to clearly explain your strongest point of argument. For narrative essays, this is where you write the most crucial part of the experience you’ve had.
You should also introduce the setting as well as other relevant characters in this part, such as this one:
Then, you have to carefully elaborate on the most critical part of the story. If you could be more “visual” with your words, that would also help more in letting your audience connect to your essay.
In the next example, you would see a person vs. nature conflict where the character struggles with the environmental forces.
Paragraph 3 of the five-paragraph essay — The “conflict’s sidekick”
As you may figure, paragraph three is a further elaboration of your second paragraph, which is why we could simply call it the “conflict’s support.”
Here, you need to clearly establish how the current paragraph connects to the previous one and end it in such a way that it also links to the succeeding paragraph.
This is also where you give more meticulous details about the conflict to let your readers understand the “whys.”
The airbag from the driver’s side malfunctioned and deployed on its own, causing Uncle Vince to lose control. I later found out too that Uncle Vince wanted to learn how to drive so he asked my dad to teach him.
Paragraph 4 of the five-paragraph essay — The “freebie”
The fourth paragraph is where you would put the least important part of your story, at least relatively speaking.
You should put here your weakest or most irrelevant argument and example details. Or, you could also provide a different point of view to your audience.
Feel free to shift from the past to the present times in this part to pull your audience back to reality.
If relevant, you could also add some more emotional details like guilt or regret, such as the following:
Then lastly, you should be able to establish a link to your last paragraph or conclusion. The example below has a lot to do with the ending of the story, which talks about realizations.
Paragraph 5 of the five-paragraph essay — The “farewell”
The “farewell” or conclusion part basically needs to summarize your entire essay’s key ideas. It should also be able to draw a link to the plot or intro paragraph.
In other words, the fifth or last paragraph should bear ideas that reconcile the previous paragraphs, especially the first.
If you are sick and tired of using almost the same words and phrases in your essay’s conclusion part, you had better check out other alternatives for “in conclusion” to sound less repetitive.
There are actually a lot of effective transition words for your conclusion to choose from in the English lexicon, so feel free to experiment some time.
Then, you can talk about the positive things that happened after the storm to leave a positive message to your readers.
Last but not least, you can completely end your essay with a call-to-action prompt that urges your readers to “do” something about what they have just read.
You can easily do this by answering the question “What do I want my audience to do after reading my story?” such as in the example below:
Five-Paragraph Essay — Sample Essay
To really see how all the parts above fit together, here’s a complete example essay containing all the elements elaborated on earlier.
In this essay, the topic is “the greatest challenge in my life,” and it has a narrative purpose. The target audience is the general public, while the rhetorical appeal is “pathos” or emotional.
This is a five-paragraph essay with approximately six hundred words including the title that talks about the loss of a loved one.
❡ 1 Every son’s first superhero and every daughter’s first love is irreplaceable – even after he crosses the other side of the rainbow bridge. In life, there is nothing more excruciating than losing a ship’s anchor on the way to the shore. With humans, that same anchor usually goes by the name “dad.” Losing my father to a total freak accident has been my least favorite part of childhood, yet it has also been the very reason why I think I’m the strongest person on the planet right now.
❡ 2 One sunny afternoon in the early nineties, I was playing catch with my neighbors Dylan, Abby, and my adorable labrador Rio. We did love playing by the road because it annoys old Miss Vacuum Lady from across the street – she nags at us all the time. As I was throwing the beanbag for Rio to catch, I noticed an unfamiliar blue Ford Explorer coming. It was running funny, so I thought the driver was just trying to do some tricks. I managed to throw the beanbag nicely, and Rio ran with all his might to catch it before it falls. A few seconds later, I heard a deafening screech and saw the blue Explorer crashing onto the maple tree outside Miss Vaccum Lady’s house. I only got scared when I realized that the car was actually trying to avoid me and that it chose to crash onto the tree instead.
❡ 3 A few moments later, I saw my mom and my other neighbors rushing outside to see what had just happened. I and my friends ran towards the car too until I heard a loud scream coming from my mom. Then all of a sudden, it came to me. My dad was in the passenger seat of that car, while his fifteen-year-old younger brother Uncle Vince was in the driver’s seat. Miraculously, Uncle Vince only had a scratch on his arm, yet my dad was neither moving nor breathing anymore – he died at that exact moment. The airbag from the driver’s side malfunctioned and deployed on its own, causing Uncle Vince to lose control. I later found out too that Uncle Vince wanted to learn how to drive so he asked my dad to teach him.
❡ 4 Everything changed after that day. No one was there to fix our busted lights anymore. No one was there to repair the roof when it leaked. I never even got to learn to play the guitar – dad had promised to buy me one on my birthday that same week he passed. For years and years, I kept blaming myself for what had happened that I never played catch again. They say “mothers know best,” and that’s a fact. Mom helped me get through all the pain and trauma even if she was also hurting a lot deep inside. For that reason, I never hesitate to trade my life for hers.
❡ 5 True enough, losing my dad has been the greatest challenge in my life. But, as time passed by, I also realized that seeing my mom suck it all up and pretend that she was fine even if she was hurting so much more. So, I made a decision never to waste a single moment with her. I have also managed to become an advocate for an organization that helps single mothers raise their kids. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from what happened, that is parental love is definitely the most selfless act in this world. So, never miss a beat with yours while you can.
Frequently Asked Questions on “How to Write a Five-paragraph Essay”
What are some good topics for a five-paragraph essay?
Social justice issues like healthcare, education, prejudice, and violence; environmental issues like climate change, resource depletion, wildlife protection, and natural disasters; life topics like near-death experiences, hobbies, and traveling are great topics for a five-paragraph essay.
How do you start a five-paragraph essay?
To start a five-paragraph essay, a hook and thesis statement are necessary. A hook can be a reflective assumption, a quote from a famous person, or a rhetorical question, while a thesis statement is a brief explanation of the essay’s topic.
How many sentences is a five-paragraph essay?
A five-paragraph essay is made of twenty-five to forty-five sentences. This structure is made up of five hundred to around one thousand words.
Writing requires time, patience, and dedication. That said, a read-worthy piece cannot come into form mindlessly but rather meticulously.
Join us again next time for some more interesting writing and other language-related hacks that can help you walk more easily through life.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.