How to Write the 5 Paragraph Essay: 3rd Stage — Drafting

Now that you got your ideas nicely organized into thesis, sub-topics, and supporting details, you can use your Arrangement as a checklist to write your Rough Draft, which is the end-product of the Drafting stage of the Writing Process. In the Drafting stage, you turn your Arrangement into sentences and paragraphs, following the organization in your Prewriting. At this stage, don’t worry about grammar yet; that’s a later step. Here’s a pictorial representation of a Rough Draft of a five-paragraph essay:

Notice that your Prewriting provides all the information you’ll need for 1) the LAST sentence of your Introduction Paragraph (the Thesis), 2) all of your Body Paragraphs, and 3) the first sentence of your Conclusion Paragraph (the Restated Thesis). YOUR THESIS DOES NOT START YOUR DRAFT! I’m sorry for shouting again, but it’s true. Your thesis statement isn’t the first sentence of your draft. It’s the last sentence in the Introduction Paragraph, which is the first paragraph of your draft.

“So how the heck do I start my draft?” you ask.

The Introduction
Notice that the shape of the Introduction is an upside-down triangle. It’s supposed to be a funnel, in which the first sentence sucks your reader into the draft, the reader spirals down the rest of the sentences of your Introduction, and he/she lands on top of your thesis statement like he/she has discovered a hidden treasure chest. There are many strategies to write that first sentence, but you MUST have a thesis statement ready and waiting before you write that first sentence. When you have that thesis, then you can use any of the eight strategies below to write that first sentence. For instance, my thesis is “Ice cream has great flavors.” Here are possible first sentences that could lead into my thesis:

1. Historical background: You give a brief history of the topic.
Example: According to some historians, ice cream was once a dessert only eaten by the very rich in eighteenth century France.

2. Anecdote/ personal story: You give a brief personal story.
Example: When I was four years old, I had my first taste of ice cream.

3. Question: You ask a question.
Example: Why is ice cream so popular?

4. Quotation: You quote somebody.
Example: My mother always said, “Ice cream is the best invention in the world.”

5. Definition: You define an important word.
Example: Ice cream is a frozen dessert made of cream, sugar, and eggs.

6. Contradiction: You state the opposite (the contradiction) of your thesis.
Example: Some people think ice cream is disgusting.

7. Fact/statistic: You give an important fact about the topic.
Example: Some ice cream prices range from $2.00 a pint to as much as $8.00 a pint.

8. Surprising trivia: You give a piece of trivia.
Example: Believe it or not, ice cream can be of any flavor, including jalapeño pepper and yam.

Pick one of these strategies, and write your first sentence. Write as many sentences as you need to connect logically this first sentence with your thesis statement. Feel free to use the other strategies to make those connecting sentences if you get stuck. But be careful not to have a tiny Introduction. A two-sentence Introduction is too short. Aim for AT LEAST four sentences.

Body Paragraphs
Follow your Arrangement closely. If you have three sub-topics with their supporting details, then you’ll have three body paragraphs. Each sub-topic label is a topic sentence. The rest of the body paragraphs is made of your supporting details in as many sentences as needed. If the topic sentence is the box lid, then the rest of the sentences are the stuff in the box.

Again, be careful not to have tiny body paragraphs. Five to ten sentences per body paragraph is a good goal to reach in a short, two-page essay, depending on how long your sentences are.

Notice that the shape of the Conclusion is a triangle, the opposite shape of the Introduction. While the Introduction sucks in the reader, the Conclusion spits the reader out. The first sentence of the Conclusion is your thesis again, restated using different words. The rest of the sentences after this first sentence can be any, some, or all of these six concluding strategies:

1. Restate an important idea
Example: As you’ve probably noticed, pistachio is my favorite flavor.

2. Give advice/ call to action
Example: You should go and buy ice cream.

3. Make a prediction
Example: Ice cream will continue to be a popular dessert for a very long time.

4. Give a quotation
Example: As my mother always said, “I cannot live without ice cream!”

5. Ask a question
Example: Who doesn’t like ice cream?

6. Restate part of your Introduction
Example: I’ve had many opportunities to eat all kinds of ice cream.

As with the other paragraphs in your Rough Draft, make sure not to have a tiny Conclusion. A two-sentence Conclusion is too short. Aim for AT LEAST four sentences.

Sample Rough Draft: “My Favorite Ice Cream Flavors”

Putting all the parts together in the Drafting stage, I have here are two examples of a Rough Draft, on the topic “ice cream,” using the “Example” pattern of body paragraph development. (We’ll go over the different patterns later in this How-To.) The first is a scanned image of my pencil-on-paper Rough Draft. The second is a typed-directly-on-the-screen Rough Draft.



My Favorite Ice Cream Flavors

            When I was four years old, I had my first taste of ice cream.  I think it was an odd flavor, sweetened avocado, which my mom made from scratch from an old Filipino recipe.  I loved it then, and I still love avocado ice cream, although you can’t find it in stores.  But over the years, I’ve tasted many different kinds of ice cream, different brands, in many places.  There’s an ice cream shop not too far away from where I live, and I know the ice cream section of my local grocery store as if it were my own personal freezer.  With all my year of eating ice cream, my favorite ice cream flavors remain pretty normal: They are vanilla, chocolate, and pistachio.

Some of my friends are surprised that I like vanilla.  After all, I’ve had exotic flavors like avocado, green tea, and mango, while vanilla seems so boring in comparison.  But what they call “boring” I call “basic.”  It’s this basic quality that I love.  It’s in vanilla that the sweetness of ice cream in general really comes through.  There’s no weird flavor getting in the way.  Also, the creaminess of vanilla ice cream comes through as well.  No weird bits and pieces of stuff getting in the way.  Gourmet people call the texture of a food in a person’s mouth “mouth feel.”  To me, vanilla ice cream has a good mouth feel, with that creaminess.  All of these qualities make vanilla ice cream the perfect foundation or companion to other foods, like muffins, blueberry cobbler, or chocolate cake.  It’s just good with everything.

Like most people who like ice cream, I really like chocolate ice cream. Chocolate ice cream comes in different varieties, from the really milky chocolate to the dark bitterness of dark chocolate.  I prefer dark chocolate myself; the darker, the better.  It’s not that I’m lactose-intolerant, that I like dark chocolate over milk chocolate.   It’s just the darker it is, the more chocolatey the ice cream is: richly bittersweet, without the cloying sweetness of vanilla when I’m not in the mood for ice cream that sweet.  Not surprisingly, when I’m in a chocolate ice cream mood, my favorite way to eat ice cream is with dark coffee.  The bitterness of the chocolate so complements the bitterness of my coffee that sometimes I put the ice cream into my coffee mug, making myself a cheap mocha drink.

Finally, my most favorite ice cream flavor is pistachio.  It’s not as common a flavor as vanilla and chocolate, and sometimes I have to search for it, going to several grocery stores.  But the search is worth it.  The basic flavor is sweet cream, but mixed in it is a delicate pistachio flavor that gives pistachio ice cream a taste that I call “green.”  Pistachio ice cream doesn’t have to green in color to have this green flavor, a refreshing taste that reminds me of a late spring picnic on a grassy lawn.  Also, mixed in the smooth, green-tasting ice cream are pistachio nuts, giving the ice cream a sweet yet dusty nuttiness and nice contrasting texture.  Because the green flavor is so delicate and the pistachio nuts give the ice cream a complex mouth feel, I eat pistachio ice cream all by itself.  I might have a glass of water to wash it all down, but that’s about it.  Pistachio ice cream needs no accompaniment.

Thus, my top three ice cream flavors are vanilla, chocolate, and pistachio.  Even though I’ve had many opportunities to eat all kinds of ice cream, I’ve returned to these three flavors again and again.  But of the three, as you’ve probably noticed, pistachio is my favorite flavor.  It is just that good.  If you’ve never had it before, I recommend you should go and buy pistachio ice cream.  However, if you don’t like pistachio, that’s okay.  Any ice cream flavor is good, I believe, and ice cream will continue to be a popular dessert for a very long time.  After all, who doesn’t like ice cream?


You’ve probably noticed that my Rough Draft has very few spelling and punctuation mistakes, but most folks’ Rough Draft likely don’t look this nice.  An omigosh-this-is-illegible-messy-only-I-can-understand-it Rough Draft is actually normal.  As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m an English teacher by training and trade, so I’ve internalized a lot of spelling and grammar stuff.  I don’t make many grammar mistakes these days, and so my Rough Draft reflects my current communication skills.

But even with my English teacher training and experience, I can spot three mistakes: In the second paragraph, I have a fragment.  In the third paragraph, “chocolatey” is a misspelling.   And in the fourth paragraph I’m missing a word between the words “to green”.  Fixing those mistakes on a Rough Draft moves me into the fourth part of the Writing Process, which is Revision and Editing.  But before we go here, here’s a brief note about using a word processor.

Use a Word Processor

You can draft with pen and paper or with keyboard and word processing software. But for those who compose with pen and paper, type your draft into a word processor.  Word processing is a skill you’ll need to know in the twenty-first century work world anyway, and Revision and Editing will be easier with an electronic version of your Rough Draft as opposed to a paper version.  Trust me on this.

Also, don’t forget to save your file often and to make a print-out of your word-processed Rough Draft just in case your word processor file gets lost, corrupted, or infected with an electronic virus.  You wouldn’t want to start your Rough Draft from scratch if something goes wrong with your file.  Therein lie insanity and much anger.  Trust me on this.

A brief word about file formats: Microsoft Word automatically saves its files as .doc or .docx files.  Microsoft Works automatically saves its files as .wps files.  Most schools and libraries run Microsoft Word, which CANNOT read .wps files, even though Microsoft makes both Word and Works.  So if you don’t have MS Word, then make sure you “Save As” your Rough Draft as a .rtf (Rich Text Format) file.

Okay, now that you have your Rough Draft complete, you can now move on to the fourth and last stage of the Writing Process: Revision and Editing.


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