CRF Blog

Against the five-paragraph essay

by Bill Hayes

In a five-paragraph essay, Fredrik deBoer argues against the five paragraph essay.

One major reason to abandon the five paragraph essay is that it leads to formulaic writing. This is unsurprising, given that the five paragraph essay is a formula. When we talk about the five paragraph essay, we are not just talking about five paragraphs. We are usually talking about an introduction that begins with a broad theme and ends with an explicit thesis statement, three body paragraphs that use topic sentences to articulate specific arguments in favor of that thesis followed by evidence, and a conclusion that restates the thesis and broadens outward. This set format does indeed provide students with a consistent, reliable system that they can use again and again. But that merely results in consistently, reliably stale, uninspired essays. This is bad enough from the perspective of the teachers who must read and grade these essays, but it is truly destructive for the students themselves. By so associating the act of writing with rules and restrictions, teachers risk dulling the inventiveness and fun that can inspire students to become lifelong writers. [more]