The Writing Plague

This essay was written in 2007 for my 12th grade AP English application (in my high school, the course had an application process for registration). We were supposed to write a five paragraph essay about something we’d change in the world, and I decided that I would write an essay on removing the requirement on high school students to write in five paragraph essays. My application was accepted.

If I had the ability and power to change one thing in the world, I would change the requirements for writing an essay in high school. The standard format, the five-paragraph essay, is a very comforting structure for a student as he or she can plug in arguments and content directly into the format. There is no confusion in the end as for what the student was trying to argue as long as the student correctly followed this format. But, there are downfalls. First, it is a contrived format created for the purpose to introduce a student to writing longer essays without seeming scary. Second, there is no foreseeable use of the five paragraph essay format outside of high school as no college that I know of specifically uses it. There are other structures available for writing. As composers of the modern era broke away from classical traditions, I think it is time for students of the new millennium to break away from five paragraph traditions.

First, the five paragraph essay is a contrived format. Somebody decided that the best way for a student to clearly communicate an idea is with an essay with an introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Granted, it is a great aid for creating something coherent, and it can act as a structural language between people when it is agreed upon that all communications will consist of five paragraphs, but sometimes more freedom is required under some circumstances for the dispersion of information. The format acts as a bronze cast, allowing the idea to flow freely but only within the confines of the cast. The format is not natural and needs to be expanded. One may argue that it even limits a student’s future abilities to write anything longer than this structure.

Second, the five paragraph essay is not a generally accepted format in universities or mainstream society. At the university level, the structure of this kind of essay does not allow for the magnitude or scale required for most term research papers. The structure of the essay may be modified to be sufficient to contain the content that appears in a long essay, but then it is not a five paragraph essay. The essay format is generally not the best choice for anything but for persuasive content and thus would not apply to most research papers. In the working world, one would be hard pressed to find any place where such a structure is used. It is doubtful that the TPS reports even use the five paragraph essay, despite how contrived they are as well.

An essay can be written in many more ways than with the prescribed combination of five paragraphs. Most essays are a discourse on a topic with a clear outline. The structure is very loose and allows for much more content than the five paragraph essay would allow. Each paragraph starts when there is a contrast in information, and sections can be separated for easily divulged information. A topic can be fairly examined without the Berlin wall that is the five paragraph essay.

In conclusion, if I could change something in the world, I would abolish the requirement for writing the five paragraph essay in high school. It may be a nice safety net when initially being exposed to the essay concept, but it is like a box of which we need to think outside. It is a contrived format that is mainly used only in a high school setting. There are more possibilities for essay writing than the hamburger-type format. It is time to free the mind of the youth to be able to write without boundaries.