What’s Wrong (And Right) (But Mostly Wrong) With The 5-Paragraph Essay

April 10, 2023


Ah, the 5-paragraph essay.  It’s so great, isn’t it?  It creates a perfect essay, every time. And amazingly, no matter what you want to say – no matter what your point, how simple or how complex, you need exactly 5 paragraphs to do it.  It’s astonishing! 

How to make pasta? 5 paragraphs. 

Explaining how to calculate a rocket launch to land on a distant planet at the exact spot you want it?  5 paragraphs.

The 2 parts of a Tai Chi symbol?  5 paragraphs.

 Okay, you got me. I’m kidding. I’m a kidder! The 5-paragraph essay is often bad.  No, wait, scratch that; it’s worse than bad: It’s fine.  Unsalted cashews fine. An episode of Big Bang Theory when you wanted to watch The Good Place fine.*

What do you mean you haven’t seen The Good Place?!?!

Yet we drill it into students to the point that they actually become incapable of stopping.

So why?  

For some students the rigid of a structure is needed. It’s useful on standardized tests, where your writing is being assessed in 60-90 seconds. Uh… it’s… you can… in numerology the #5 is connected to adventure and curiosity!

Oh, man, that’s ironic.


It was good to learn it, it was.  And it’s worth teaching!  I think! Maybe! It really is.  Hurray for teaching the 5-paragraph essay!  And there’s a time and place for it. 

So, then, what’s the problem…

What’s Wrong (and Right) (But Mostly Wrong) With The 5-Paragraph Essay

*Okay, to be fair, I’ve never seen The Big Bang Theory.**  It could be brilliant.  

**You know what’s weird?  I don’t know anyone who’s seen it.  It was on for, like 30 years on a major network and not one person I know has ever watched it.  

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Site in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, but sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

View all posts by The Byronic Man


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