Students often get stuck on the structure of their essay before they start writing. While it is true that the content of your essay can make or break your grade, how you present that content is a big part of how impactful your essay is.
A question students often ask is how many paragraphs college essay writing requires. The honest answer? It depends on the kind of essay you’re writing and your professor’s guidelines. The standard format is five paragraphs per essay, but this format can often be restrictive. The number of paragraphs you use entirely depends on the type of essay you’re writing.
However, it’s inadvisable to make up your paragraph structure according to what feels best to you. There are a few writing tips you can follow to make sure your essay’s properly structured and various factors that influence your paragraph count. We’ve outlined some of these factors below.
Type of Essay
The bare minimum any essay should have is three paragraphs; one paragraph each for your essay’s introduction, body, and conclusion. However, this is less than any typical essay and is only a broad structure for your content to follow.
While it is okay to restrict your introduction and conclusion to one paragraph each, your main body of content should always be more than one or two paragraphs.
When it comes to college essay writing, there are three major categories that dictate the organization and paragraph count of your essay.
- Narrative and Descriptive Essay Writing:
The first category is narrative essay writing, the structure of which wholly depends on the author’s storytelling style and ability. The same goes for descriptive essays, where the paragraph structure depends on how the writer paints the picture of what they’re describing to their readers. It is best to go with your gut and writing abilities when it comes to the structuring and paragraphs of these kinds of essays. Limiting yourself to a strict paragraph count or outline might be catastrophic to your flow of writing.
However, while narrative and descriptive essays have a mostly flexible structure, the same cannot be said for the two other types of essay writing.
- Argumentative Essay Writing:
Argumentative essays must have a defined structure before the writer even begins writing to ensure proper flow. These are the types of essays where it is best to follow the five-paragraph rule: the introduction, three arguments to persuade the reader towards your argument, and the conclusion. Argumentative essays are usually short, so it is easy to follow this structure and focus on building a strong argument.
- Expository Essay Writing:
Another category is expository essay writing, the aim of which is to explain a topic or idea on the basis of facts, figures, and case studies. These don’t necessarily follow the five-paragraph rule, but the best ones almost always have a rigid outline prepared before you begin writing.
Keep in mind that these are only the major types of essays assigned to students in college. An example of another type that students may be assigned is the reflective essay, which usually accompanies an assignment or project and outlines the reflections of the student while attempting that assignment.
Length and Organization of Essay
Probably the most significant factors are how you organize the content and the word count of your essay. The three steps given below will help you appropriately organize your essay.
- Begin Outlining:
Start with organizing your thoughts on the topic you’ve been assigned and making an outline. While working on this outline, keep in mind how you are developing your argument and how your essay flows. Does one idea flow well into the other? Do you need to compare and contrast to develop your topic? How many examples or case studies are you using? These questions will help in organizing your essay and the paragraphs you use.
- Take Word Count into Account:
Keep in mind your word count and think how many words each sub point of your outline might contain. Take 100 words per paragraph as a starting point, then see how many paragraphs your essay will require.
- Answer the Question:
Additionally, remember to check if you are adequately answering the question or idea presented in your topic. Students often divert from the main topic when they create their outline based on the paragraph structure, and end up either writing too in-depth or too little.
Therefore, always figure out how your essay flows and what kinds of points you must make in your essay before you start organizing it.
Ultimately, you should remember that each essay has different requirements. What you say and how you say it are both equally important while writing your essay. The best way to strike the perfect balance between content and structure is by reading numerous examples of essays on similar topics and then creating an outline before you begin writing.
And if you find yourself in need of extra help, there are always countless writing tips and essay writing services available online to help you put your thoughts on paper.