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How many paragraphs does an essay have?

Oct 16, 2020


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A typical essay consists of 3-5 paragraphs. The three paragraphs are the introduction, the main body, and the conclusion. It is as simple as it may be. You could expect such a basic essay structure in assignments while in a high school or undergraduate studies. 

The college admission type of essay is typically a short one also, consisting of 300 words, which is roughly not longer than a three-paragraph structure. No wonder, as admissions committees often get overloaded with hundreds if not thousands of applications, that’s why they try to keep the length requirement to a minimum. It does not mean, however, that applicants should treat the 300 words essay as a free-riding exercise; on the contrary, it requires immense ability to express oneself clearly and convincingly within a lesser text size.

A five-paragraph essay is perhaps the most widely spread one. Nevertheless, from an organizational perspective, a five paragraphs essay is not much different from the three paragraphs: the main body paragraph (middle) gets further divided into three parts but carries the same function. You can find hundreds of online articles explaining what a five-paragraph essay is. Below I will try to summarize their contents:

1. The introduction paragraph. The task of the introduction is to hook the reader to continue reading. This is the right part to place a thesis statement: sometimes in the very first sentence, but most often at the end of the introduction paragraph. The introduction has all the potential to grab your reader’s attention and make him hungry for the rest of your story. You need to realize this potential.

2. The first main body paragraph. This is the place for the first and the key argument supporting the thesis statement. It is important to make a smooth transition between the main body arguments, for example, by using appropriate transition phrases.

3. The second main body paragraph. Here one should place the second argument in support of the thesis statement. By using multiple arguments your story will gain more credibility in the eyes of your audience. 

4. The third main body paragraph. Normally the shortest part of the main body. Place either your third argument here or make a logical transition of your thoughts leading towards the conclusion.

5. The Conclusion. The place to summarize and discuss the findings. It should not be too long, though, as there is no need to mention every single point here, just the key findings. It is a good practice to leave some room for further thoughts in the conclusion – let your reader ponder over the implications of your story!

Learning how and when to use paragraphs is a key skill in essay writing. One should avoid using too long paragraphs as they are hard to read and often indicate a lack of clarity in the writer’s thoughts. As a rule of thumb, it is better to make more paragraphs than fewer, regardless of the word count or page number requirements.   

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