Is The “Five Paragraph Essay” Structure Crippling Creativity?

The article I’ve chosen to discuss in this blog post was one written by Nancy Flanagan entitled, “Should We Teach the Five-Paragraph Essay?” She highlights not only her own opinion on the structure, but also those who think it’s ruining the creativity of students. When writers find themselves stuck in one rigid format it can be claimed that they will cut and compromise their writing in order to follow a formula. Two writers, David Rosenwasser and Jill Stephens, that Flanagan mentions say that the five paragraph format, “handicaps young writers by teaching them a method that “runs counter to virtually all of the values and attitudes that they need in order to grow as writers and thinkers.”

Flanagan doesn’t necessarily agree with such a strict outlook on this particular piece of the high school curriculum. She sees the inherent benefits that the five paragraph outline offers. Upon reading this article I found myself thinking, what is the point of teaching something that college professors want their freshman to throw away? As stated in the article “College writing teachers hate the five-paragraph essay.” Should this be the case? Along with Flanagan I see the benefits behind the age old method. In my own writing I find that my transitions, thesis and topic sentences are stronger having learned writing in this way.

What I found interesting however, was her agreement that it needs to be taken out. While long paragraphs and cutting chunks of creative material out to stick to the structure can damage a writing style, I think that the five paragraph structure has it’s own place in higher education. Even though some of my professors have told me that they hate this method, I found myself subconsciously writing the way I was always  taught, five paragraphs, and still being able to discuss everything I needed to address. I think that it’s possible that students think you need to go over and above in explanation. However, when you need to get right to the point nothing could suit you better than the five paragraph outline.

There are different structures to be used when the time calls for it, but if you want to get to the point, stick to the five. In my opinion, nothing works better than setting an outline, using your strongest arguments and getting right down to the nitty gritty. Who wants to wade through the muck just to get to the point? That’s when a teacher finds your writing long and daunting and you could even be scored lower because of it and who really wants that? In all I think you just need to use your best judgement and allow for the five paragraph to be your resource when you know it will assist you in your writing. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, consider your options and stem your creativity from that.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Is The “Five Paragraph Essay” Structure Crippling Creativity?

  1. Thanks for highlighting the blog, but the piece was a guest post written by Josh Boldt.

  2. brittanygage4

    Thanks for bringing that to my attention! I must have just misread that.

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