As I am sure I have mentioned before, I am a teacher.
More specifically, I teaching Writing and Composition. (Big surprise there, I know!)
We have recently started discussing essay writing in my classes, and I have introduced them to the tried and true five-paragraph essay formula.
While other teachers tout the benefits of something called a four-square essay or something like that, I like to stick to the basics.
The great thing about the five-paragraph essay formula is that it is just that—formulaic.
You plug a broad general statement, some narrowing details, and a three point thesis statement into the introduction. You use your three points from your thesis statement as your topics for your three body paragraphs. You add some evidence (examples, facts, statistics, or quotes) and analysis of that evidence for each body paragraph, and then you restate and summarize everything in your conclusion and throw in another broad general statement for good measure to wrap things up.
Now, if you’ve any experience at all writing essays, you know there’s a little more to it than that (transitions not least among those extras), but when I break it down like this, it seems to really click with my students.
The best thing about the five-paragraph essay formula, though, is that it’s adaptable. You can use the same formula for a three-paragraph essay or a seventeen-paragraph essay.
I will full admit that every single essay I have ever written started with the same basic, five-paragraph essay structure.
Even the thesis I wrote for my Master’s degree started with the same elements.
Surely not, you may scoff, but that is absolutely the case.
The thing is, I find that when I outline where I’m going, writing is so much easier. I haven’t yet used the same thing for any of my blog posts or the short stories I write, but even those things have recommended formulas if you care to search.
The fact is that formulas help.
If you are struggling with writing, look up some of those formulas.
Heck, maybe start with a personal essay that follows the five-paragraph essay format.
Great writing moves beyond formulas, I find, but everyone has to start somewhere. It’s only when you learn the formulas and the rules that you can learn to break them effectively, to adapt them to your own purposes.
I tell my students all the time that I did not learn to pull BS off the top of my head overnight. It took years and years of practice (and last-minute essay writing, to my eternal shame) to develop the ability.
I am not suggesting that all writing is BS, but every writer should at least have the capability of doing so.
Fake it until you make it, right?
So use the formulas. Practice your BS abilities.
I am also not suggesting that I’ve moved beyond the learning phase of formulas and BSing, but I might hazard to say that I am getting there.
With each new journal entry, blog post, short story, sample essay, e-mail, Facebook status, what-have-you, that I write, I learn more and more about this endlessly fascinating craft called writing.
If you’ve ever felt the call to write, come join me. It’s absolutely maddening, and at times, I want to throw every single writing utensil I own (which is a considerable amount) away and call it quits, but it’s also rewarding and fun, and it has the added benefit of the cool-factor, the being able to tell people you’re a writer and have them stare at you as if you’re some otherworldly being, or maybe just as if you are crazy.
It is worth it, though.
I hope you enjoyed today’s post and that you’ll continue to stick around.
Do you, too, struggle with writing and find blessed help from using formulas? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Much love, y’all,