Five Paragraph Essay Formats

A classic format for compositions is the five-paragraph essay. It is not the only format for writing an essay, of course, but it is a useful model for you to keep in mind, especially as you begin to develop your composition skills. The following material is adapted from a handout prepared by Harry Livermore for his high school English classes at Cook High School in Adel, Georgia. It is used here with his permission.

Introduction:

Introductory Paragraph

See, first, Writing Introductory Paragraphs for different ways of getting your reader involved in your essay. The introductory paragraph should also include the thesis statement, a kind of mini-outline for the paper: it tells the reader what the essay is about. The last sentence of this paragraph must also contain a transitional "hook" which moves the reader to the first paragraph of the body of the paper.

Body:

Body — First paragraph:

The first paragraph of the body should contain the strongest argument, most significant example, cleverest illustration, or an obvious beginning point. The first sentence of this paragraph should include the "reverse hook" which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the introductory paragraph. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional hook to tie into the second paragraph of the body.

Body — Second paragraph:

The second paragraph of the body should contain the second strongest argument, second most significant example, second cleverest illustration, or an obvious follow up the first paragraph in the body. The first sentence of this paragraph should include the reverse hook which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the first paragraph of the body. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional hook to tie into the third paragraph of the body.

Body — Third paragraph:

The third paragraph of the body should contain the weakest argument, weakest example, weakest illustration, or an obvious follow up to the second paragraph in the body. The first sentence of this paragraph should include the reverse hook which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the second paragraph. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional concluding hook that signals the reader that this is the final major point being made in this paper. This hook also leads into the last, or concluding, paragraph.

Conclusion:

Concluding paragraph:

This paragraph should include the following:

  1. an allusion to the pattern used in the introductory paragraph,
  2. a restatement of the thesis statement, using some of the original language or language that "echoes" the original language. (The restatement, however, must not be a duplicate thesis statement.)
  3. a summary of the three main points from the body of the paper.
  4. a final statement that gives the reader signals that the discussion has come to an end. (This final statement may be a "call to action" in an persuasive paper.)

A Sample Paper

1Stephen King, creator of such stories as Carrie and Pet Sematary, stated that the Edgar Allan Poe stories he read as a child gave him the inspiration and instruction he needed to become the writer that he is. 2Poe, as does Stephen King, fills the reader's imagination with the images that he wishes the reader to see, hear, and feel. 3His use of vivid, concrete visual imagery to present both static and dynamic settings and to describe people is part of his technique. 4Poe's short story "The Tell-Tale Heart" is a story about a young man who kills an old man who cares for him, dismembers the corpse, then goes mad when he thinks he hears the old man's heart beating beneath the floor boards under his feet as he sits and discusses the old man's absence with the police. 5In "The Tell-Tale Heart," a careful reader can observe Poe's skillful manipulation of the senses. The introductory paragraph includes a paraphrase of something said by a famous person in order to get the reader's attention. The second sentence leads up to the thesis statement which is the third sentence. The thesis statement (sentence 3) presents topic of the paper to the reader and provides a mini- outline. The topic is Poe's use of visual imagery. The mini- outline tells the reader that this paper will present Poe's use of imagery in three places in his writing: (1) description of static setting; (2) description of dynamic setting; and (3) description of a person. The last sentence of the paragraph uses the words "manipulation" and "senses" as transitional hooks.
1The sense of sight, the primary sense, is particularly susceptible to manipulation. 2In "The Tell-Tale Heart," Poe uses the following image to describe a static scene: "His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness . . ." Poe used the words "black," "pitch," and "thick darkness" not only to show the reader the condition of the old man's room, but also to make the reader feel the darkness." 3"Thick" is a word that is not usually associated with color (darkness), yet in using it, Poe stimulates the reader's sense of feeling as well as his sense of sight. In the first sentence of the second paragraph (first paragraph of the body) the words "sense" and "manipulation" are used to hook into the end of the introductory paragraph. The first part of the second sentence provides the topic for this paragraph--imagery in a static scene. Then a quotation from "The Tell-Tale Heart" is presented and briefly discussed. The last sentence of this paragraph uses the expressions "sense of feeling" and "sense of sight" as hooks for leading into the third paragraph.
1Further on in the story, Poe uses a couple of words that cross not only the sense of sight but also the sense of feeling to describe a dynamic scene. 2The youth in the story has been standing in the open doorway of the old man's room for a long time, waiting for just the right moment to reveal himself to the old man in order to frighten him. 3Poe writes: "So I opened it [the lantern opening]--you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily--until, at length, a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye." 4By using the metaphor of the thread of the spider (which we all know is a creepy creature) and the word "shot," Poe almost makes the reader gasp, as surely did the old man whose one blind eye the young man describes as "the vulture eye." The first sentence of the third paragraph (second paragraph of the body) uses the words "sense of sight" and "sense of feeling" to hook back into the previous paragraph. Note that in the second paragraph "feeling" came first, and in this paragraph "sight" comes first. The first sentence also includes the topic for this paragraph--imagery in a dynamic scene. Again, a quotation is taken from the story, and it is briefly discussed. The last sentence uses the words "one blind eye" which was in the quotation. This expression provides the transitional hook for the last paragraph in the body of the paper.
1The reader does not know much about what the old man in this story looks like except that he has one blind eye. 2In the second paragraph of "The Tell-Tale Heart," Poe establishes the young man's obsession with that blind eye when he writes: "He had the eye of the vulture--a pale blue eye, with a film over it." 3This "vulture eye" is evoked over and over again in the story until the reader becomes as obsessed with it as does the young man. 4His use of the vivid, concrete word "vulture" establishes a specific image in the mind of the reader that is inescapable. In the first sentence of the fourth paragraph (third paragraph in the body), "one blind eye" is used that hooks into the previous paragraph. This first sentence also lets the reader know that this paragraph will deal with descriptions of people: ". . . what the old man looks like . . .." Once again Poe is quoted and discussed. The last sentence uses the word "image" which hooks into the last paragraph. (It is less important that this paragraph has a hook since the last paragraph is going to include a summary of the body of the paper.)
1"Thick darkness," "thread of the spider," and "vulture eye" are three images that Poe used in "The Tell-Tale Heart" to stimulate a reader's senses. 2Poe wanted the reader to see and feel real life. 3He used concrete imagery rather than vague abstract words to describe settings and people. 4If Edgar Allan Poe was one of Stephen King's teachers, then readers of King owe a debt of gratitude to that nineteenth-century creator of horror stories. The first sentence of the concluding paragraph uses the principal words from the quotations from each paragraph of the body of the paper. This summarizes those three paragraph. The second and third sentences provide observations which can also be considered a summary, not only of the content of the paper, but also offers personal opinion which was logically drawn as the result of this study. The last sentence returns to the Edgar Allan Poe-Stephen King relationship which began this paper. This sentence also provides a "wrap-up" and gives the paper a sense of finality.

A five paragraph essay is one of the most common essay formats you’ll find used in schools and universities. It’s a basic layout that anyone can use and it works well for a variety of essay styles. If you need more length, it’s simple to add to the 5 paragraph essay and expand it a little.

Before you get started with the five paragraph essay outline, you need to do a little research. What is your topic? What point do you want to make? Figuring this information out first gives you a launching point and from there, you can do your research and collect evidence.

All your information and evidence needs to come from qualified sources. Using Wikipedia isn’t a good plan, but university and government sites are much more reputable and can be used in your quotes. Remember that most essays end with a bibliography or a section where all your references are listed. Professors check these, so taking the time to do the research ahead of time means you will be able to prove that you know what you’re doing and how to research correctly.

Doing the pre-writing tasks, such as research and creating an outline, will help you write smoothly and transition from one section to the next in your essay. It’s worth the time it takes to improve your essay.

5 Paragraph Essay Outline

The basic five paragraph essay outline has three main parts, the introduction, the body and the conclusion. Each section has its own specific needs and should be written accordingly.

Introduction: The first paragraph of the essay will introduce the topic and lay out the main idea in a single sentence. This sentence is your thesis statement. If you have been given a topic, or asked a question for the essay, the answer to it is usually the thesis statement. Once you have this, you can build on it to let people know what your three main points are. Depending on the style of the essay, these points may be arguments or just statements.

Body: The three paragraphs that make up the middle or the meat of the essay are called the body. Take the three points that support the thesis statement and make each sentence the base of its own paragraph. These paragraphs should include information and details that will support the main topic of the entire essay, but there’s no need to be dull about it. Include facts, statistics and interesting points, as well as quotes, to keep it interesting and convincing.

Conclusion: Your final paragraph is the conclusion of our story. Here, you will remind people of the thesis statement by restating it. This paragraph also contains a brief recap of the rest of the essay, giving a summary of the main points and how they connect to the thesis and prove your point.

5 Paragraph Essays

Which essays use the five paragraph essay method? It’s a very common formula for writing, so you’ll use it just about everywhere you need to create a quality essay. In nearly all essay questions, you’ll find that you can use this.

An expository essay focuses only on the facts and analyzes a specific topic. The first paragraph will introduce the topic and explain what the reader will learn. The first body paragraph will give a better description of the topic and the following two paragraphs give more details, with quotes and statistics to prove that it is true. In some cases, the first and second body paragraphs will look at the pros and cons of the topic in a neutral manner, with more details in the third paragraph. The conclusion will wrap it all up into a neat, tidy package for the reader.

Persuasive essays are also five paragraph essays, but they are designed to convince the reader of a specific point, which is made in the first and last paragraphs. The body covers three arguments to prove your point, one in each paragraph, with the strongest argument last. Each argument must have evidence to back it up and the conclusion will cover each of these points in brief, while restating the main point.

A narrative essaytells a story and usually focuses on a real life event or experience. In this type of essay, the body paragraphs will generally give details and tell the story in chronological order. The conclusion recaps the lesson learned or makes a personal statement about the story.

The descriptive essay tends to be similar to a narrative essay, but focuses on describing an element of a story. It uses colorful adjectives and descriptions to create the feeling of being there and will draw the reader in emotionally. Each body paragraph builds on the details, making you feel the emotions and see the colors more vividly. Finally, in the conclusion, you can recap the story and make your point.

Nearly any essay can be written in five paragraphs, but these are the most commonly used options.

Five Paragraph Essay Topics List

When it comes to writing your essay, you may have access to a five paragraph essay topics list. This will give you a good head start on writing, but if you are able to come up with a topic on your own, that gives you even more flexibility.

There is no one topic for a five paragraph essay, so you can choose anything that works with the type of essay you are working on. If you’re supposed to write an argumentative essay, for example, you’ll select a very different topic than a narrative essay.

Five Paragraph Essay Outline Template

To make writing your five paragraph essay simpler, it’s a good idea to work from a template outline. You’ll have each of the five paragraphs laid out for you, with examples and tips to help you choose what to write. A template can smooth the difficulties of writing a quality essay and make it something you can turn out fairly quickly.

Grab one of our 5 paragraph essay outline templates today and get started!
Five Paragraph Essay Templates

five paragraph essay outline

expository essay

argumentative essay

Persuasive essay

narrative essay

descriptive essay

 

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