Writing an essay can be a difficult enough task as it is; writing it a language that is your first language is even harder.
If you’re taking the TOEFL or the TOEIC and have to complete a writing assessment, then read these instructions for organizing a great five-paragraph essay in English.
Paragraph One: The Introduction
This first paragraph, made up of 3-5 sentences, has two purposes: grabbing the reader’s attention, and providing the main point (thesis) of the whole essay.
To get the reader’s attention, your first few sentences are key. Use descriptive words, an anecdote, a striking question or an interesting fact related to your topic to draw the reader in.
To state your main point, your last sentence in the first paragraph is key. Your first few sentences of the introduction basically introduce the topic and grab the reader’s attention. The last sentence of the introduction tells the reader what you think about the assigned topic and lists the points that you’re going to write about in the essay.
Here’s an example of a good introductory paragraph given the topic, “Do you think teenagers should have jobs while they are still students?”:
I’ve worked ever since I was twelve. As a teenager, I cleaned houses for my family members, made banana splits at an ice cream parlor, and waited tables at various restaurants. I did it all while carrying a pretty good grade point average in school, too! I definitely believe that teenagers should have jobs while they are still students because a job teaches discipline, earns them cash for school, and keeps them out of trouble.
Paragraphs Two – Four: Explaining Your Points
Once you’ve stated your thesis, you have to explain yourself! The thesis in the example introduction was “I definitely believe that teenagers should have jobs while they are still students because a job teaches discipline, earns them cash for school, and keeps them out of trouble”.
The job of the next three paragraphs is to explain the points of your thesis using statistics, examples from your life, literature, the news or other places, facts, examples, and anecdotes.
Paragraph Two: Explains the first point from your thesis: Teenagers should have jobs while they are still students because a job teaches discipline.
Paragraph Three: Explains the second point from your thesis: Teenagers should have jobs while they are still students because a job earns them cash for school.
Paragraph Four: Explains the third point from your thesis: Teenagers should have jobs while they are still students because a job keeps them out of trouble.
In each of the three paragraphs, your first sentence, called the topic sentence, will be the point you’re explaining from your thesis. After the topic sentence, you’ll write 3-4 more sentences explaining why this fact is true. The last sentence should transition you to the next topic. Here’s an example of what paragraph two would look like:
First, teenagers should have jobs while they are still students because a job teaches discipline. When I was working at the ice cream store, I had to show up every day on time or I would have gotten fired. That taught me how to keep a schedule, which is a big part of learning discipline. As I cleaned the floors and washed the windows of my family members’ homes, I knew they would be checking up on me, so I worked hard to do my best, which taught me an important facet of discipline, which is thoroughness. But being disciplined isn’t the only reason it’s a good idea for teenagers to work during school; it can also bring in the money!
Paragraph Five: Concluding the Essay
Once you’ve written the introduction, explained your main points in the body of the essay, transitioning nicely between them all, your final step is to conclude the essay. The conclusion, made up of 3-5 sentences, has two purposes: to recap what you’ve stated in the essay, and leave a lasting impression on the reader.
To recap, your first few sentences are key. Restate the three major points of your essay in different words, so you know the reader has understood where you stand.
To leave a lasting impression, your last sentences are key. Leave the reader with something to think about before ending the paragraph. You could try a quote, a question, an anecdote, or simply a descriptive sentence. Here’s an example of a conclusion:
I can’t speak for anyone else, but my experience has taught me that having a job while being a student is a very good idea. Not only does it teach people to have character in their lives, it can give them the tools they need to succeed like money for college tuition or a good reputation. Sure, it’s hard to be a teenager without the added pressure of a job, but with all the benefits of having one, it’s too important not to make the sacrifice. Like Mike would say, “Just do it.”