11 The 5¶E in College – Will You Use It or Not?

Many of you have responded in the discussion forum with a myriad of perspectives in relation to the 5¶E’s merits and/or downfalls.  I also saw a variety of insights as to whether this formulaic style would be of value at the college/university level.  Most of the responses ranged from “absolutely” to “maybe” in certain circumstances.  I tend to agree with the latter, as academic writing (like research papers) does rely on some of the principles found in the 5¶E (a thesis statement that outlines what is to come, an introductory paragraph, body paragraphs that illustrate your larger points/ideas, a conclusion that restates the point to a degree, and an overall attention to organizing your thoughts in a manner that allows the reader to digest the information easily) but I am doubtful that it will work in all of your assignments.  In particular, I do not think it will be of value in our first essay assignment.

You will be writing an experience essay soon, which will ask you to share some important moment or moments from your life.  Would you want to relay your story via a 5¶E where you will have a proper introduction with a thesis statement?  Could the essence of your story be conveyed in the next three paragraphs?  Would you want to reiterate the point of your story in the conclusion?  Perhaps these questions can be better answered by another question.  Which of these two introductions seems better in terms of telling the story of some aspect of your life?

  1. A) Everyone goes through ups and downs in life.  Sometimes life throws you curveballs when you least expect them and how one reacts to these events usually dictates how life will be.  This is the story of an accident that happened when I was seventeen and how it affected my life.
  2. B) I awoke to red and blue lights reflecting off the snow through a haze inside my car.  An airbag was half empty in front of me and I reached up to touch my face.  Immediately,  I recoiled in pain.  My right elbow was shattered.  I could not see it, but I felt a searing pain shoot up my arm when I went to move it.  Blood dripped down onto my legs.  I was pretty sure my jaw was fractured too.

I hope you went with choice B.  Choice A will likely give away your whole point immediately and would not leave the reader wanting to read on since you just divulged the larger idea of your entire story at the beginning.  Beyond that, I would assume the larger point of your story would take more than three paragraphs to get across.  Lastly, what would be the point of restating the point of your story, that everyone just read, in the conclusion?  Choice A would sort of be like renting a movie and the following happens:  the title screen comes on, but then a man/woman comes on screen and tells you what you are about to see in this movie, the movie then proceeds much as the man/woman told you it would, the credits begin to roll and the man/woman comes back on screen and repeats what you just watched.  Would you ever rent that again or give it high marks?  Why, then, would you do this in your essays, and more so, in your experience essay?

So, the long and short of this module was to get you talking about the 5¶E and you all did that with great success.  I would, however, caution all of you from using its priniciples and designs in your first paper.  Principles of it will be of use as we move past the experience essay, but for now I would seek to go outside your comfort zone of writing in such a formulaic way (whether you have been using it in your prior schooling, at work, or in other places).  I think this will be comforting to some of you (as creativity can flourish) but some of you will be terrified that you cannot use a style that is so familiar.  Rest easy…I am here to help and so are your classmates.  We will figure out together.

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Introduction to College Writing by Lumen Learning is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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