3 By 5 Essay

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A 3x5 Essay about the 3x5 Essay

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by Richard Crews
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[First paragraph]

I-1. [Sentence of general introduction] An expository essay is a form of writing that presents information about a topic or explains a point of view.

I-2. [Key idea number one] An expository essay can be organized many different ways.

I-3. [Key idea number two] One way of organizing an expository essay is according to a "three-by-five" (3x5) format, so called because there are five paragraphs which are designed to cover three ideas or sub-topics.

I-4. [Key idea number three] Whatever form an expository essay takes, it should be written in interesting and accurate prose that conducts the reader comfortably toward the desired conclusion.

I-5. [Transition to the next paragraph] Before examining closely the 3x5 essay structure, let's consider the range of structures or organizations that expository essays can have.

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[Second paragraph]

II-1. [Sentence introducing first key idea] There are several possible essay structures that come readily to mind.

II-2. [Discussion of first key idea] The material might be presented historically with the earliest observations or foundation first followed by the developments year-by-year.

II-3. Or, depending on the topic, one might present the simplest, most basic, underlying concepts first and gradually progress to more and more complex ideas derived from these.

II-4. One interesting format is to present a leading question first and then answer it, or present a counter argument or negative position first, and then refute it.

II-5. [Sentence for transition to second key idea] However, the 3x5 form can be used for almost any topic.

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[Third paragraph]

III-1. [Sentence introducing second key idea] A 3x5 essay has five paragraphs, each of which has five sentences.

III-2. [Developing the second key idea] The first sentence of the first paragraph is a general introduction; the second, third, and fourth sentences of the first paragraph each introduce one of the three key ideas; then the fifth sentence of the first paragraph summarizes the first paragraph and makes a transition to the second paragraph.

III-3. The second, third, and fourth paragraphs each have five sentences; each paragraph has an introductory sentence, three development sentences, and a concluding sentence--each of these paragraphs is devoted to one of the three key ideas of the essay.

III-4. Finally, the fifth paragraph has five sentences that are used to introduce the conclusion, summarize each of the three key ideas, and draw a general conclusion for the essay.

III-5. [Sentence for transition to third key idea] Within this tight, formal structure, the writer must use great care, but also wit and imagination to create interesting prose.

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[Fourth paragraph]

IV-1. [Introducing third key idea] There are several general ideas to keep in mind in order to produce prose that is clear and accurate but also attractive.

IV-2. [Developing third key idea] First and foremost the author should be sure to have the facts straight and to present and explain them as simply and clearly as possible.

IV-3. In line with this, the author should be sure that words are used accurately and that grammar and punctuation are used correctly.

IV-4. To be sure, the author should try to work in explanatory metaphors--perhaps even poetic imagery--and be witty and charming, which keeps the writing interesting; but this is always in the service of expository accuracy and clarity.

IV-5. [Sentence providing summary and transition to last paragraph] An essay which is mainly meant to explain or inform should also be written to please the senses and entertain the mind.

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[Fifth paragraph]

V-1. [Sentence introducing the last paragraph] Expository writing may at first seem drab and dry but if done well, it can be both useful and interesting.

V-2. [Summary of key idea number one] The organizational format may be 3x5 or historical or one of many other possibilities.

V-3. [Summary of key idea number two] If the 3x5 format is chosen, it is very rigorous indeed.

V-4. [Summary of key idea number three] Whatever organizing format is used, the prose should be accurate and interesting.

V-5. [Sentence with overall, final conclusion] Writing an expository essay can indeed be a challenging and also useful endeavor.

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Here is the same essay without the distractions and interruptions.

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A Three-by-Five Essay about the Three-by-Five Essay

An expository essay is a form of writing that presents information about a topic or explains a point of view. An expository essay can be organized many different ways. One way of organizing an expository essay is according to a "three-by-five" (3x5) format, so called because there are five paragraphs which are designed to cover three ideas or sub-topics. Whatever form an expository essay takes, it should be written in interesting and accurate prose that conducts the reader comfortably toward the desired conclusion. Before examining closely the 3x5 essay structure, let's consider the range of structures or organizations that expository essays can have.

There are several possible essay structures that come readily to mind. The material might be presented historically with the earliest observations or foundation first followed by the developments year-by-year. Or, depending on the topic, one might present the simplest, most basic, underlying concepts first and gradually progress to more and more complex ideas derived from these. One interesting format is to present a leading question first and then answer it, or present a counter argument or negative position first, and then refute it. However, the 3x5 form can be used for almost any topic.

A 3x5 essay has five paragraphs, each of which has five sentences. The first sentence of the first paragraph is a general introduction; the second, third, and fourth sentences of the first paragraph each introduce one of the three key ideas; then the fifth sentence of the first paragraph summarizes the first paragraph and makes a transition to the second paragraph. The second, third, and fourth paragraphs each have five sentences; each paragraph has an introductory sentence, three development sentences, and a concluding sentence--each of these paragraphs is devoted to one of the three key ideas of the essay. Finally, the fifth paragraph has five sentences that are used to introduce the conclusion, summarize each of the three key ideas, and draw a general conclusion for the essay. Within this tight, formal structure, the writer must use great care but also wit and imagination to create interesting prose.

There are several general ideas to keep in mind in order to produce prose that is clear and accurate but also attractive. First and foremost the author should be sure to have the facts straight and to present and explain them as simply and clearly as possible. In line with this, the author should be sure that words are used accurately and that grammar and punctuation are used correctly. To be sure, the author should try to work in explanatory metaphors--perhaps even poetic imagery--and be witty and charming, which keeps the writing interesting; but this is always in the service of expository accuracy and clarity. An essay which is mainly meant to explain or inform should also be written to please the senses and entertain the mind.

Expository writing may at first seem drab and dry but if done well, it can be both useful and interesting. The organizational format may be 3x5 or historical or one of many other possibilities. If the 3x5 format is chosen, it is very rigorous indeed. Whatever organizing format is used, the prose should be accurate and interesting. Writing an expository essay can indeed be a challenging and also useful endeavor.
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Essay Writing for Standardized Tests: Tips for Writing a Five Paragraph Essay

Most, if not all, high school and college standardized tests include a writing portion. Students are provided a writing prompt and must then write an essay on the topic. Writing for standardized tests can strike fear in the hearts and minds of students of all ages, but it doesn’t have to. If you know what to expect and understand how to write a five paragraph essay, you will be prepared to tackle any essay writing prompt.

Types of Essays on Standardized Tests

When you begin to write your essay for a standardized test, you must first decide what type of essay you are being asked to write. There are many different types of essays, including narrative, expository, argumentative, persuasive, comparative, literary, and so on. The type of essay will determine your topic and thesis. Essays for standardized tests are typically either persuasive, in which you will answer a question, or literary, in which you will write about something you read.

For standardized tests, students usually have to write a five paragraph essay, which should be 500 to 800 words long and include an introductory paragraph, three supporting paragraphs and a concluding paragraph.

The First Paragraph: The Introduction

The first paragraph will introduce your topic. The introduction is the most important paragraph because it provides direction for the entire essay. It also sets the tone, and you want to grab the reader’s attention with interest and clarity. The best way to tackle the introduction is to:

  • Describe your main idea, or what the essay is about, in one sentence. You can usually use the essay writing prompt or question to form this sentence.
  • Develop a thesis statement, or what you want to say about the main idea. When the writing prompt is a question, your thesis is typically the answer to the question.
  • List three points or arguments that support your thesis in order of importance (one sentence for each).

Voila! You’ve just written your introductory paragraph.

The Second, Third and Fourth Paragraphs: Supporting Details

These three paragraphs form the body of the essay. They provide details, such as facts, quotes, examples and concrete statistics, for the three points in your introductory paragraph that support your thesis. Take the points you listed in your introduction and discuss each in one body paragraph. Here’s how:

  • First, write a topic sentence that summarizes your point. This is the first sentence of your paragraph.
  • Next, write your argument, or why you feel the topic sentence is true.
  • Finally, present your evidence (facts, quotes, examples, and statistics) to support your argument.

Now you have a body paragraph. Repeat for points two and three. The best part about introducing your main points in the first paragraph is that it provides an outline for your body paragraphs and eliminates the need to write in transitions between paragraphs.

The Fifth Paragraph: The Conclusion

The concluding paragraph must summarize the essay. This is often the most difficult paragraph to write. In your conclusion, you should restate the thesis and connect it with the body of the essay in a sentence that explains how each point supports the thesis. Your final sentence should uphold your main idea in a clear and compelling manner. Be sure you do not present any new information in the conclusion.

Parting Thoughts

When writing an essay for a standardized test, outline your essay and get through each paragraph as quickly as possible. Think of it as a rough draft. When your time is up, a complete essay will score more points than an incomplete essay because the evaluator is expecting a beginning, middle and an end.

If you have time to review your essay before your time is up, by all means do so! Make any revisions that you think will enhance your “rough draft” and be sure to check for any grammatical errors or misspellings.

Online instruction like  the Time4Writing essay writing courses for elementary, middle and high school students can help children prepare for state and college-entrance standardized writing tests. These interactive writing classes build basic writing skills, explain essay types and structure, and teach students how to organize their ideas.

For general tips on test preparation and details about each state’s standardized tests, please visit our standardized test overview page.

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