How Many Paragraphs Are in an Essay

No rule says that an essay needs to have a set number of paragraphs, but then a standard essay must and should have a minimum of three paragraphs.

Over time, many people have said an essay should be five paragraphs, but it’s an extremely limiting rule, you see, and unless you’ve been instructed to write a five-paragraph essay, there’s no reason to stick to it.

As a rule (standard), you’ll write your essay in three main parts:

First, you’ll introduce your topic to your reader.

Next, you will have body text in which you discuss the topic in more detail, and finally, you’ll have a conclusion that tells your reader what you were able to see after looking into the facts or thinking through the topic.

In its simplest form, an essay can consist of three paragraphs, with one devoted to each section.

Advocates of the five-paragraph essay say that the body text should consist of three paragraphs, but in reality, it’s fine to write more or fewer paragraphs in this section.

But then, it is possible to write a five-paragraph essay. But before we go into that, there are some things you need to consider.

Types of Essay

Decide what kind of essay to write. An essay can be either any of these.

Narrative Essay

Tell a story or impart information about your subject in a straightforward, orderly manner, like in a story.

Persuasive Essay

Convince the reader about some point of view.

Expository Essay

Explain to the reader how to perform a given process.

Descriptive Essay

Focus on the details of what is going on.

Argumentative Essay

Take a position on a controversial issue and present evidence in favour of your position.

Compare and Contrast Essay

Identify similarities and differences between two subjects that are typically under the same umbrella.

Problem-Solving Essay

Describe a problem, convince the reader to care about the problem, propose a solution, and be prepared to dismantle objections.

Informative Essay 

Educate the reader on a particular topic with facts.

  • Brainstorm your topic – You cannot write an essay unless you have an idea of what to write about.

    Brainstorming is the process by which you come up with the essay topic. You need to sit and think of ideas during this phase.

    Write down everything that comes to mind, as you can always narrow those topics down later.

    Use clustering or mind mapping to brainstorm and come up with an essay idea.

    This involves writing your topic or idea in the center of the paper and creating bubbles (clouds or clusters) of related ideas around it.

    Brainstorming can be a great way to develop a topic more deeply and to recognize connections between various facets of your topic.

    Once you have a list of possible topics, it’s time to choose the best one to answer the question posed for your essay.

    You want to choose a topic that is neither too broad nor too narrow.
  • Research the topic – Once you have done your brainstorming and chosen your topic, you may need to do some research to write a good essay.

    Go to the library or search online for information about your topic. Interview people who might be experts in the subject.

Keep your research organized so it will be easy for you to refer back to. This also makes it easier to cite your sources when writing your final essay.

Guidelines on Essay Writing

Choose a Writing Style

The writing style you choose for your essay is dictated by your teacher or the topic of your paper.

Generally, there are three (3) writing styles.

Types of Writing Style

MLA (Modern Language Association)

MLA is designed for humanities and language arts essays. It uses the author-page number citation style.

This is the most common writing style used by high school and college students.

APA (American Psychological Association)

APA used the author-date citation style and was created for social science and psychology research papers and essays. It is the second most common writing style out there.

Chicago Manual of Style, also known as Turabian, has two writing styles: author-date and notes-bibliography.

Mostly used by college students and professionals, the author-date style works for scientific papers, while Notes-Biblio makes arts and humanities papers a breeze.

Each different writing style has its own unique format for in-text and reference list citations.

  • Develop a thesis
  • Outline your essay.
  • Write your essay.
  • Edit your writing to check spelling and grammar.

It is also important to note that the number of paragraphs of an essay may depend on the given number of words.

  • For an essay of between 100 and 400 words, you need a minimum of 3 paragraphs.
  • For an essay of 500 words, you need a minimum of 3 or 4 paragraphs.
  • For an essay of between 600 and 700 words, you need a minimum of 4 paragraphs.
  • For an essay of between 700 and 800 words, you need a minimum of 5 paragraphs.
  • For an essay of between 900 and 1,000 words, you need a minimum of 6 or 7 paragraphs.
  • For an essay of about 1,250 words, you need a minimum of 8 or 9 paragraphs.
  • For an essay of about 1,500 words, you need a minimum of 10 paragraphs.
  • For an essay of about 1, 750 words, you need a minimum of about 11 or 12 paragraphs.
  • For an essay of a 2,000-word count, you need a minimum of about 13 or 14 paragraphs.

However, for an ideal five-paragraph essay, here are the contributing paragraphs:

  • Paragraph one – Introduction
  • Paragraph two – Argument
  • Paragraph three -Counter Argument
  • Paragraph four – Rubuttal
  • Paragraph five – Conclusion

Five Qualities of a Good Essay

FOCUSAn essay should have a single clear central idea. Each paragraph should have a clear main point or topic sentence.
DEVELOPMENTEach paragraph should support or expand the central idea of the paper. The idea of each paragraph should be explained and illustrated through examples, details, and descriptions.
UNITYEvery paragraph in an essay should be related to the main idea. Each paragraph should stick to its main point.
COHERENCEAn essay or paper should be organized logically, flow smoothly, and “stick” together. In other words, everything in the writing should make sense to a reader.
CORRECTNESSA paper should be written in generally correct standard English, with complete sentences, and be relatively error-free.


These are guidelines to help you write an essay that can be read and understood easily.

The above instructions can help you write an essay that stands out.

Let us know what you think in the comment section. If this article was helpful, do well to share it across your social media profiles.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.