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Types of essays: Learn 5-paragraph structure and purpose

If you struggle to put words together on paper that sound impressive, then you need to make some changes right now. School is all about writing all types of essays for almost every subject.

You will have to write the Narrative, Descriptive, Expository, Persuasive, and Argumentative essays. You must know the purpose of these essays, intent of the writers and the specific 5-paragraph structure of each one to make it effective.

Each paragraph in these suggested structures has 3 parts that would ensure that you write an effective essay. It is important to have a thesis statement in the introduction of most of your essays as it tells the reader exactly what you are going to talk about in paragraphs 3, 4 and 5. Here are guidelines for 5 types of essays for you to follow when given an assignment at school.

Types of essays

1. Narrative Essay

The Narrative Essay is one that you know all too well. You have been exploring your own creativity with storytelling and enjoying it from other writers in the form of storybooks, novels, cartoons, TV shows, movies and songs.

All types of essays require you to work on a plan. A Narrative plan should cover seven elements and each element has its own part.

Elements that make up a Narrative piece are:

1. Plot

You must clearly develop a plot with the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution.

2. Characters

You can name or show physical and emotional attributes of persons.

3. Setting

Show time, mood and place using descriptive language.

4. Conflict

State the problem either at the end of the exposition or the beginning of the rising action.

5. Action

The rising action should build up suspense of the conflict, the climax should bring the conflict to its highest point, and the falling action should bring down the drama to a close.

6. Language

Use adjectives, synonyms and figurative devices to describe everything.

7. Structure

Show the order of the plot in your plan – beginning is the exposition, middle is the three actions (rising, climax and falling), and end is the resolution.

Narrative – 5 paragraphs

In this suggested structure, each paragraph deals with one element of plot. There are 3 parts to cover in each paragraph. This helps you to cover all 7 elements by including them in specific paragraphs.

Paragraph 1: Exposition

  • Characters – name persons and describe their physical and emotional attributes that may relate to the story line.
  • Setting – show time, mood and place using one or two sentences
  • Conflict – introduce the problem in the last sentence, just like a thesis statement

Paragraph 2: Rising action

  • Conflict develops
  • Suspense heightens
  • Tension reaches maximum point

Paragraph 3: Climax

  • Drama strikes
  • Action heightens
  • Situation reaches point of no return

Paragraph 4: Falling action

  • Change appears
  • Drama declines
  • Transformation ends

Paragraph 5: Resolution

  • Setting after the conflict whether it is the next day, 6 months or 2 years
  • Life for the characters after the conflict
  • Note on what the future may bring for the characters

2. Descriptive Essay

The Descriptive Essay creates imagery by appealing to the reader’s sense of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch using adjectives and figurative devices. It can be confused with the Narrative Essay because they both paint a picture with words about a topic.

The difference is the Narrative takes the reader through a series of events displaying characters, setting, conflict, action, and resolving a problem, while the Descriptive focusses on explaining the details of appearance, environment, or emotions of people, animals, places and objects.

Both types of essays require the use of synonyms and figurative devices. Expand your vocabulary daily through reading books and researching the meaning of words that you do not know.

Look up the words that are similar in meaning to words that you use every day. Reading a novel a week exposes you to new metaphors, similes, personifications, onomatopoeias, and expressions that you can use in your own essays.

Descriptive – 5 paragraphs

In this suggested structure, each paragraph has 3 parts to cover. You may write 1 or more sentences for each part as long as you stay within your given word count.

Paragraph 1: Introduction

  • Hook
  • Context
  • Thesis statement

Paragraph 2: Body

  • Topic sentence e.g. appearance
  • Sensory details
  • Actual details

Paragraph 3: Body

  • Topic sentence e.g. environment
  • Sensory details
  • Actual details

Paragraph 4: Body

  • Topic sentence e.g. emotions
  • Sensory details
  • Actual details

Paragraph 5: Conclusion

  • Paraphrase of thesis statement
  • Summary of paragraphs 2, 3 and 4
  • Closing statement

3. Expository Essay

The Expository Essay relates information about an event or process in a step by step manner. This type of writing is used in reports, documentaries, recipes, instructions and manuals.

You are required to present information objectively. Details about persons, places, events or objects must be supported by evidence. You are not required to use figurative language, appeal to the senses, or create suspense and drama.

At school, you must recognise which one of the 6 types of Expository essays you are given before you start. This would determine which 5-paragraph format you use. These suggested formats ensure that you answer any question given effectively.

6 Types of Expository Essay

1. Process

2. Cause and effect

3. Compare and contrast

4. Definition

5. Problem/solution

6. Classification

Expository – 5 paragraphs

Expository types of essays carry one format except for a slight difference in the body of each one. Paragraphs 2, 3, and 4 deal with 3 different things for each type.

GENERAL STRUCTURE

Paragraph 1: Introduction

  • Opening statement
  • State or rephrase the given question
  • Thesis statement

Paragraph 2: Body

  • Topic sentence
  • Details with evidence
  • Closing statement

Paragraph 3: Body

  • Topic sentence
  • Details with evidence
  • Closing statement

Paragraph 4: Body

  • Topic sentence
  • Details with evidence
  • Closing statement

Paragraph 5: Conclusion

  • Paraphrase of thesis statement
  • Summary of paragraphs 2, 3 and 4
  • Closing statement

Paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 differences

Process – show before, during and after

Cause and Effect – give 3 causes and effects

Compare and Contrast – use 3 aspects of two things and show similarities and differences

Definition – give origin of something, status of it today, and what may happen to it in the future

Problem/solution – show the reason for a problem, actual problem, and solution for the problem

Classification – use 3 aspects of a topic that makes it fall under a particular category

4. Persuasive Essay

The Persuasive Essay is emotional, heavily opinionated and written to convince the reader to agree with a particular viewpoint on a topic. This type of essay uses a lot of repetition, exaggeration, rhetorical questions, comparisons between the two sides of the story and attempts to support these points with some facts.

You may be asked to write a Persuasive piece in the form of a letter of complaint to the editor of a newspaper or a speech to address the student body at your school about changes you wish to make.

You can master this type of writing by following current events, debates, infomercials and reading the comments of persons on social media. You will be surprised to learn about the amount of different viewpoints there could be on a particular topic. By gathering this information gradually, you will be able to write a Persuasive essay with ease.

Persuasive 5 paragraphs

In this suggested structure, each paragraph has 3 parts to cover. You may write 1 or more sentences for each part as long as you stay within your given word count.

Paragraph 1: Introduction

  • Hook for the viewpoint you support
  • State or rephrase the given question
  • Thesis statement

Paragraph 2: Body

  • Topic sentence e.g. Personal point
  • Evidence with facts and opinions
  • Closing statement

Paragraph 3: Body

  • Topic sentence e.g. Social point
  • Evidence with facts and opinions
  • Closing statement

Paragraph 4: Body

  • Topic sentence e.g. Business point
  • Evidence with facts and opinions
  • Closing statement

Paragraph 5: Conclusion

  • Paraphrase of thesis
  • Summary of body
  • Closing statement

5. Argumentative Essay

The Argumentative Essay also aims to convince the reader to agree with a particular viewpoint, however, it fairly presents both sides of the topic supported only by facts. It looks at the advantages and disadvantages from several perspectives that may be personal, social, educational, ethical, economical or political. The objective is to examine both sides of a debate to give the reader a clear picture as to why the author’s views are correct.

Read a lot of scholarly papers, theses and journals by academics to master this type of essay. You may also follow current events, talk shows, and read the comments on social media posts. You will gather knowledge on debated topics worldwide and different viewpoints of people from all walks of life.

Argumentative – 5 paragraphs

In this suggested structure, each paragraph has 3 parts to cover. You may write 1 or more sentences for each part as long as you stay within your given word count.

Paragraph 1: Introduction

  • Address of topic
  • State or rephrase the given question
  • thesis statement

Paragraph 2: Body

  • Topic e.g. Personal point
  • Evidence with facts
  • Closing statement

Paragraph 3: Body

  • Topic e.g. Social point
  • Evidence with facts
  • Closing statement

Paragraph 4: Body

  • Topic e.g. Business point
  • Evidence with facts
  • Closing statement

Paragraph 5: Conclusion

  • Paraphrase of thesis on topic
  • Summary of paragraphs 2, 3 and 4
  • Closing statement
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