This article is hopefully going to help you format and outline a simple 5 paragraph essay.

While the outline is a very basic part of writing an essay, I still see a lot of people struggle to effectively outline their own essays. There are many ways to create an outline, but I'm going to show you an easy way that I do it. It can be adjusted for any type of essay (informative, persuasive, narrative, etc), and is a fast way to organize your thoughts. If visual organizers such as webs are more your thing, then this may not be for you:

The Outline:

Main idea/Introduction paragraph

  • Introduction to topic
  • Transition to main idea
  • Thesis statement

Now, let's go over what all of this means. It may help you to completely write your main idea separately. The main idea should be something like the argument you're trying to make about a certain topic (often in a school setting this can come from a prompt, for example "Should schools have uniforms or not, tell us why"). In a personal essay the main idea may be something closer to the message or lesson learned as a result of the events in the story.

The intro to your topic should be broad. If it's a persuasive essay, you do not want to bring up your argument. And if it's a narrative on the time you got left in the store, then you can simply describe what it's like to be inside a grocery store. You can even just ask the question, "Have you ever been to a grocery store before?" Another good thing to start with is the definition of a word that's important to your main idea (ex: Main idea is about designer babies, intro is you defining the term 'designer babies').

Your transition into revealing the main ideas should be as simple and painless as possible. It's really only there to make sure you don't abruptly go from your intro to the thesis statement without any warning. You can do this by using transition words or a phrase. An example of this in an intro paragraph would be:

Have you ever been to a grocery store? The aisles are cramped and cart wheels squeak as people search for diapers, boxes of cereal, and containers of yogurt to help them survive the next week. People often bring their children there, holding their hands tightly as they wield coupons and earplugs, speeding past toy sections and video game displays alike. This is about the time my parents nearly forgot me in a grocery store during black friday.

The transition is "People often bring their children there . . ." This is important because we go from disconnectedly describing a shopping setting to mentioning something that clues us in to the main point, which is about the time you were left there as a child.

The final aspect of an introduction paragraph is the thesis statement. As you saw above, a thesis statement is just a statement used to reveal the main idea (or point you're trying to make) following the initial intro and transition. You should not reveal too much of the essay in the thesis (ex: don't just list the three or so main points or events that take place throughout the essay), but it should be more narrow than the introduction of the paragraph was.

Body Paragraph 1

  • Event/argument 1
  • supporting details 1
  • supporting details 2

For each paragraph in an essay, you want 1 main event that has happened, or a main argument or fact that you want the readers to know about. They should be one short sentence long. If you're arguing about something like the school uniform thing, for example, you can say something like: "To begin with, school uniforms being required would not get rid of the need for a dress code to begin with." Note that transition words and phrases are very important, and should be placed throughout your essay for a better flow.

The supporting details need to support the event/argument with details and additional information. There should be at least two of them, but if they seem too simple and short, a third one is optional.

The next two body paragraphs should follow the same format the first one did.

Body Paragraph 2

  • Event/argument 2
  • supporting details 1
  • supporting details 2

Here's two.

Body Paragraph 3

  • Event/argument 3
  • supporting details 1
  • supporting details 2

And here's three.

Finally, the conclusion paragraph should follow the same format the introductory paragraph did. Its main purpose is to restate the thesis and review what the essay was about.

  • Restate thesis
  • List main events/arguments
  • Conclude essay

When you restate your thesis, you don't want to copy it exactly. You should rephrase it as well, and put it in a different order. We'll use our example intro from earlier.

In conclusion, this was about the time I was left at a Walmart during black friday. First, my parents left the store without me. Then, I was found by an employee and they called my parents to pick me up an hour later. So, next time you're out shopping during the busiest time of the year, make sure no to let go of your kid's hand on the way out.

So, I hope this helps anyone who needed advice on writing a basic essay. With the school year unfortunately coming up, I think we need all the help we can get. At least I certainly do ;)