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How to Write the Standard Five-Paragraph Essay

Updated: Feb 1, 2017
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How to Write 5 Paragraph Essay 

How to Write the Standard Five-Paragraph Essay

The Five-Paragraph Essay is one of the most frequently given assignments in higher education. Most times – unless directed otherwise – students are to respond to an exam’s essay questions in the form of the five-paragraph essay. Also, assignments for essays given in various courses generally require students to write essays that take the form of the five-paragraph essay.


It is a simple method of academic writing that most undergraduate students will have to produce. The purpose of the five-paragraph essay is to serve as a way for students to demonstrate they have read, comprehended and can critically analyze material learned in the course in which the assignment has been given. They are to use this knowledge and skill-set to create an essay that makes an argument, which is to be ultimately defended throughout the essay; however, some instances may call for the student to only convey information on a given topic as a response to a question.


Unless a student is specifically directed to write essays that are much longer than five paragraphs, or if during an exam they are required to respond to a question in, for example, brief one-paragraph answers, they usually are safe with writing a five-paragraph essay.


Directions for Writing the Five-Paragraph Essay

1. Carefully Read the Assignment’s Directions and Requirements


Before jumping in and getting right to the assignment (maybe just to get it done), it’s better for the student to read the assignment’s directions so that they can be sure of what they are to do, how it’s ultimately supposed to be done, and by what limitations, etc. As with any assignment in college, most writing assignments require a good deal of planning in order to get a good grade.


If the student is just to write a five paragraph essay where they are to make an argument, they may want to select a topic that is not too broad and/or limited. Perhaps it should be one they know quite a bit about, one they’re familiar with.

2. Organize the Essay Using the Basic Five-Paragraph Essay Outline


The five-paragraph essay has an introductory paragraph declaring the thesis statement (the statement or theory that is put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved or argued throughout the rest of the five-paragraph essay); a set of body paragraphs – the three paragraphs in the middle of the essay defending the Thesis Statement. 5 paragraph essay always ends with a conclusion paragraph. More about five-paragraph essay outline:

Five-Paragraph Essay Outline

Five-Paragraph Essay Outline Infographics


3. Write the First Draft of the Five-Paragraph Essay


Using the outline as a guide, the student is to write the first draft of their five-paragraph essay. It requires a strong topical sentence and a confidently asserted Thesis Statement in the introductory paragraph. Transitions, such as ''First of all'', ''Secondly'', ''Next'', ''Finally'', and ''In conclusion'', help communicate transitions in the argument to the reader – usually the professor. Each of the essay’s body paragraphs serves to evidence the thesis – they serve to build and support a strong argument for the student making the case of something.


Lastly, the student needs a conclusion paragraph to tie the essay together and indicate that the argument has come to a close. This includes the student restating in a creative, original way the reasoning behind their argument, or Thesis Statement, and the points supporting that argument. Again, this should amount to a solid five paragraphs, with each comprising five to seven sentences in total.

4. Proofread and Reread the Essay


The student should read their essay at least twice before turning in their essay for a grade. Proofreading means that it should be free of grammatical errors, erroneous statements, incomplete sentences, as well as claims that are not supported with logical evidence. They must look to confirm that their essay has argued a position in a thorough, persuasive manner. 

5. Make Final Corrections and Changes to the Essay, Then Submit for a Grade or Evaluation


At this point, the student should generally go back and reread the original question or assignment instructions. They should do this in order to make sure they have followed the instructions, have answered the question at hand well and completely, and have created an essay that is stellar, academic and of professional quality.


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