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Master the Five-Paragraph Essay

what is a composition essay

The five-paragraph essay is one of the most common composition assignments out there, whether for high school or college students. It is a classic assignment because it presents an arena in which writers can demonstrate their command of language and punctuation, as well as their logic and rhetorical skills. These skills are useful not only for classroom assignments and college application essays, but even in the business world, as employees have to write memorandums and reports, which draw on the same skills.

Mastering the five-paragraph essay is doable, and here are some tips.

Components of a Good Essay

The five-paragraph essay lives up to its name, because is has five paragraphs, as follows: an introductory paragraph that includes a thesis, three body paragraphs, each which includes support and development, and one concluding paragraph.

Its structure sometimes generates other names for the same essay, including three-tier essay, one-three-one, or a hamburger essay. Whether you are writing a cause-and-effect essay, a persuasive essay, an argumentative essay or a compare-and-contrast essay, you should use this same structure and the following specifics.

Keys to Introductory Paragraphs

Any introductory paragraph contains from three to five sentences and sets up the tone and structure for the whole essay. The first sentence should be a so-called hook sentence and grabs the reader. Examples of hook sentences include a quote, a joke, a rhetorical question or a shocking fact. This is the sentence that will keep your readers reading. Draw them in.

What Makes a Thesis Statement

The last sentence should be your thesis statement, which is the argument you are going to make in the essay. It is the sentence that contains the main point of the essay, or what you are trying to prove. It should be your strongest claim in the whole essay, telling the reader what the paper is about. You should be able to look back at it to keep your argument focused. The other sentences in this paragraph should be general information that links the first sentence and the thesis.

Content of Supporting Paragraphs

Each of the next three paragraphs follows the same general structure of the introductory paragraph. That is, they have one introduction sentence, evidence and arguments in three to five sentences, and a conclusion. Each one of them should define and defend your thesis sentence in the introduction.

The first body paragraph should be dedicated to proving your most powerful point. The second body paragraph can contain your weakest point, because the third body paragraph can, and should, support another strong argument.

Concluding Paragraph Tips

Your concluding paragraph is important, and can be difficult. Ideally, you can begin by restating your thesis. Then you can recall or restate all three to five of your supporting arguments. You should summarize each main point. If you have made similar arguments multiple times, join those together in one sentence.

Essentially, in the concluding or fifth paragraph, you should restate what your preceding paragraphs were about and draw a conclusion. It should answer the question: So what? Even if the answer seems obvious to you, write it down so that your reader can continue to easily follow your thinking process, and hopefully, agree with you.

A Note on Compare and Contrast

Let’s look a little more closely at the compare-and-contrast essay, which is a very common assignment. It can be a confusing one due to the terms used. Comparing two items is to show how they are alike. Contrasting two items is to show how they are different. One way to approach this essay is to make a grid for yourself that compares or contrasts two items before you start writing. Then, write about those characteristics. Do not try to write about both. The name of the essay is actually misleading.

Keep these pointers in mind when you need to write a five-paragraph essay, and your end result will be clear in its argument, leading your reader to the right conclusion. Often, that conclusion is to agree with you, and who doesn’t like to be right?


what is a composition essay

What Is Composition? Definition, Types, and Examples

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  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

In the literary sense, a composition (from the Latin "to put together") is the way a writer assembles words and sentences to create a coherent and meaningful work. Composition can also mean the activity of writing, the nature of the subject of a piece of writing, the piece of writing itself, and the name of a college course assigned to a student. This essay focuses on practicing how people write.

Key Takeaways

  • In writing, composition refers to the way a writer structures a piece of writing.
  • The four modes of composition, which were codified in the late 19th century, are description, narration, exposition, and argumentation.
  • Good writing can include elements of multiple modes of composition.

Composition Definition

Just like a musician and an artist, a writer sets the tone of a composition to his or her purpose, making decisions about what that tone should be to form a structure. A writer might express anything from the point of view of cool logic to impassioned anger. A composition might use clean and simple prose, flowery, descriptive passages, or analytical nomenclature.

Since the 19th century, English writers and teachers have been grappling with ways to classify forms and modes of writing so beginner writers can have a place to start. After decades of struggle, rhetoricians ended up with four categories of writing that still make up the mainstream of Composition 101 college classes: Description, Narration , Exposition , and Argumentation .

Types of Composition Writing 

The four classical types of composition (description, narration, exposition, and argumentation) are not categories, per se. They would almost never stand alone in a piece of writing, but rather are best-considered modes of writing, pieces of writing styles that can be combined and used to create a whole. That is to say, they can inform a piece of writing, and they are good starting points for understanding how to put a piece of writing together.

Examples for each of the following composition types are based on the American poet Gertrude Stein's famous quote from " Sacred Emily ," her 1913 poem: "A rose is a rose is a rose."


A description, or descriptive writing, is a statement or account that describes something or someone, listing characteristic features and significant details to provide a reader with a portrayal in words. Descriptions are set in the concrete, in the reality, or solidity of an object as a representation of a person, place, or thing in time. They provide the look and feel of objects, a simultaneous whole, with as many details as you'd like.

A description of a rose might include the color of the petals, the aroma of its perfume, where it exists in your garden, whether it is in a plain terracotta pot or a hothouse in the city.

A description of "Sacred Emily" might talk about the length of the poem and the facts of when it was written and published. It might list the images that Stein uses or mention her use of repetition and alliteration.

A narration, or narrative writing, is a personal account , a story that the writer tells his or her reader. It can be an account of a series of facts or events, given in order and establishing connections between the steps. It can even be dramatic, in which case you can present each individual scene with actions and dialog. The chronology could be in strict order, or you could include flashbacks.

A narration about a rose might describe how you first came across it, how it came to be in your garden, or why you went to the greenhouse that day.

A narration about "Sacred Emily" might be about how you came across the poem, whether it was in a class or in a book lent by a friend, or if you were simply curious about where the phrase "a rose is a rose" came from and found it on the internet.

Exposition, or expository writing , is the act of expounding or explaining a person, place, thing, or event. Your purpose is not to just describe something, but to give it a reality, an interpretation, your ideas on what that thing means. In some respects, you are laying out a proposition to explain a general notion or abstract idea of your subject.

An exposition on a rose might include its taxonomy, what its scientific and common names are, who developed it, what the impact was when it was announced to the public, and/or how was it distributed. 

An exposition on "Sacred Emily" could include the environment in which Stein wrote, where she was living, what her influences were, and what the impact was on reviewers.


Also called argumentative writing , an argumentation is basically an exercise in comparing and contrasting. It is the methodological presentation of both sides of an argument using logical or formal reasoning. The end result is formulated to persuade why thing A is better than thing B. What you mean by "better" makes up the content of your arguments.

Argumentation applied to a rose might be why one particular rose is better than another, why you prefer roses over daisies, or vice versa.

Argumentation over "Sacred Emily" could compare it to Stein's other poems or to another poem covering the same general topic.

The Value of Composition

A great deal of debate enlivened college theoretical rhetoric in the 1970s and 1980s, with scholars attempting to throw off what they saw were the confining strictures of these four writing styles. Despite that, they remain the mainstay of some college composition classes.

What these four classical modes do is provide beginner writers a way to purposefully direct their writings, a structure on which to form an idea. However, they can also be limiting. Use the traditional modes of composition as tools to gain practice and direction in your writing, but remember that they should be considered starting points rather than rigid requirements.

  • Bishop, Wendy. "Keywords in Creative Writing." David Starkey, Utah State University Press, University Press of Colorado, 2006.
  • Conners, Professor Robert J. "Composition-Rhetoric: Backgrounds, Theory, and Pedagogy." Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture, Hardcover, New ed. Edition, University of Pittsburgh Press, June 1, 1997.
  • D'Angelo, Frank. "Nineteenth-Century Forms/Modes of Discourse: A Critical Inquiry." Vol. 35, No. 1, National Council of Teachers of English, February 1984.
  • Hintikka, Jaakko. "Strategic Thinking in Argumentation and Argumentation Theory." Vol. 50, No. 196 (2), Revue Internationale de Philosophie, 1996.
  • Perron, Jack. "Composition and Cognition." English Education, The Writing Teacher: A New Professionalism, Vol. 10, No. 3, National Council of Teachers of English, February 1979. 
  •  Stein, Gertrude. "Sacred Emily." Geography and Plays, Letters of Note, 1922.
  • What Is Expository Writing?
  • AP English Exam: 101 Key Terms
  • Focusing in Composition
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  • Composition Type: Problem-Solution Essays
  • Rhetorical Analysis Definition and Examples
  • Definition and Examples of Analysis in Composition
  • Writing Prompt (Composition)

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Home » Education » Difference Between Essay and Composition

Difference Between Essay and Composition

Main difference – essay vs composition.

Many students think that the two words Essay and Composition mean the same and can be used interchangeably. While it is true that essay is an essay a type of composition, not all compositions are essays. Let us first look at the meaning of composition. A composition can refer to any creative work, be it a short story, poem, essay, research paper or a piece of music. Therefore, the main difference between essay and composition is that essay is a type of composition whereas composition refers to any creative work .

What is an Essay

An essay is a literary composition that describes, analyzes, and evaluates a certain topic or an issue . It typically contains a combination of facts and figures and personal opinions, ideas of the writer. Essays are a type of commonly used academic writing in the field of education.  In fact, the essay can be introduced as the main type of literary composition written in school level.

An essay typically consists of a brief introduction, a body that consists of supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion. However, the structure, content and the purpose of an essay can depend on the type of the essay. An essay can be classified into various types depending on the given essay title, or the style of the essay writer. Narrative , Descriptive , Argumentative , Expository , Persuasive , etc. are some of these essay types. The content , structure and style of the essay also depend on the nature of the essay. The complexity of the essay also depends on the type of the essay. For example, narrative and descriptive essays can be written even by primary school students whereas argumentative and persuasive essays are usually being written by older students.

Difference Between Essay and Composition

What is a Composition

The term composition can refer to any creative work . A composition can be a piece of music, art of literature. For example, Symphony No. 40 in G minor is a composition by Mozart.

The term literary composition can refer a poem, short story, essay, drama , novel or even a research paper. It refers to an original and creative literary work.

Main Difference - Essay vs Composition

Essay is a relatively short piece of writing on a particular topic.

Composition is a creative work.


Essay is a type of composition.

Not all compositions are essays.

Essay can be categorized as narrative, descriptive, persuasive, argumentative, expository, etc.

A composition can be a short story, novel, poem, essay, drama, painting, piece of music, etc.

Prose vs verse

Essay is always written in prose.

Difference Between Essay and Composition- infographic

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  • Short Composition


What is the Meaning of Composition?

The composition definition can be stated as compiling words and phrases to narrate a particular event or convey a certain message. Composition writing is a very easy method to get the point across and that too in a short amount of time. The composition can be easily understood because often they are written as a form of short composition. Some short composition writing examples are message writing, dairy entry, notice etc.



Composition Writing Format

The composition like a paragraph includes three main parts an introduction, body and conclusion. 

Introduction- This includes the definition of the topic if any and the meaning of the same. And if the topic is about informing something then the introduction includes the aim of the composition.

Body- The body of the composition includes more details about the topic and explains in a very elaborated way so there is a very clear idea about the subject the composition is conveying.

Conclusion- The conclusion paragraph should include supporting concepts covered throughout and give your last thoughts on the fundamental idea of the topic.

Write a short composition on ‘My Hobby.’

Kids Painting

Kids Painting

A hobby is an enjoyable activity that we engage in to pass the time. When we are not engaged in our daily activities, we do something we enjoy. Every one of us enjoys pursuing one or more hobbies. Hobbies allow you to stay active. Hobbies provide us with entertainment. They assist people in remaining energetic at all times. Drawing is one of my hobbies. I enjoy drawing using a variety of colours. It brings me joy to draw. My favourite time of day is when I go home from school because I have more free time to paint. On my notepad, I enjoy drawing photos of my mum and father. They're my favourite ones. Fruits like mango, orange, and banana are other favourites of mine to paint. My mother encourages me to keep drawing. Everyone at my school enjoys my drawings as well. My teachers always invite me to join in school competitions. There is a small room in my house that my father built. I've retained all of the drawings I've made in that room. I drew a mango, a pineapple, mountains, a cow and many more things. My mum and father are always ready to gift me all required art supplies. They are overjoyed that I do not waste time and sketch in my spare time.

Different Types of Composition Writing

Practice exercise.

Write a short notice as the class monitor regarding the upcoming summer vacation dates and the summer camp schedule.

Composition Exercise

Composition Exercise

Date- 1-05-20XX

This is to tell all students that during the summer holidays, which will start soon from April 25, 20XX to June 15, 20XX our school will have a summer camp that will run from Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Many engaging activities in English relevant to studies, such as sports and exercise, will be available. You will be responsible for your own transportation. Those that are interested should contact their assigned teacher.

Class Monitor

Do it Yourself

1. Write a short composition on ‘A Weekend Trip’.


2. Write a short composition on ‘A fantasy world.’

A Fantasy World

A Fantasy World

3. Write a short composition on ‘ My Favourite Subject’.

Class of Students Reading

Class of Students Reading


FAQs on Short Composition

1. What is the definition of writing a brief composition?

These are short texts aimed at a specific individual who is not present at the time but will be in a short period of time, and the writer will not be present at that time. It can be used to send a crucial message to someone who will be arriving shortly at the location. For instance, write a notice for the upcoming story writing competition or update about the upcoming exam schedule etc. 

2. What's the difference between a composition and an essay?

Any creative effort, whether it's a short story, poem, essay, research paper, or piece of music, is referred to as a composition. As a result, the primary distinction between an essay and a composition is that an essay is a form of composition, whereas composition is any creative work. The other main difference between essays and compositions is the length of the two. While essay however short is a more detailed look than a composition which is short. 

3. What is the significance of composition writing?

Writing and composition are crucial tools in literacy, education, and, most importantly, communication. People can communicate ideas, feelings, emotions, opinions, debates, and many other types of information through composition and writing.

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8 Steps to Write a Good Composition (part 1)

Are you having trouble with your writing skills? Read this and you will find good and simple advice to make things much easier and your compositions much better. Even impressive. Just follow the 8 steps we will show you.


The first thing to consider is that a composition is not simply a piece of writing. It must be composed, it must have a structure and a cohesive organisation. Compare these two examples:

A-   My brother’s tall and handsome and with blue eyes and, yeah, well, maybe a bit fat, but not much, you know, something like your cousin, but maybe not that much. And he’s very funny, ha ha, I’ll tell you about what he did yesterday, but not now. And brown-haired. Almost dark. Well, not dark but… well, yeah, dark. Oh, I said funny, but well, when he’s got a bad day, uff, he scares me sometimes…

B-   My brother is tall, handsome and has got blue eyes. He is a little fat, but not much. His hair is dark brown. I like him because he is very funny and always makes me laugh. Nevertheless, he can also be quite serious sometimes.

As you can easily perceive, A is a good example of oral English, but it would be totally unacceptable for a composition. On the other hand, B is the right thing to say when writing, with simple, organised ideas. But B would be considered too pedantic and even unacceptable when talking in a normal conversation.

Using a correct language is part of it, but not enough. Both A and B are correct language, but  Spoken and Written language are different, they use, to some extent, different vocabulary, different grammar and, especially, a different way to express things!


Many think that planning is a waste of time, especially if you are sitting for an exam and time is limited. But the truth is that planning your composition will not only make the task easy and much better; it will also make it all faster. At least once you have practised a little bit.

First, you have to know what topic you’re going to write about. In most situations you will already know this when you sit down to write. And then, you must start making an outline:

1- opening sentence = topic + approach 2- ideas connected to the opening sentence 3- details about those ideas 4- closing sentence

When you are happy with the outline, it comes the time to do the writing, and here you should follow these other 4 steps:

5- write a title 6- organize ideas into paragraphs 7- write the composition 8- correct your composition

In this article we well help you to make a good outline, which is the basis of this method. We will complete the 8 steps in a second article (see part 2, to be published very soon). So let’s get started.

1- topic + approach = opening sentence (O.S.)


Think of the opening sentence as a little perfume bottle: the topic is the material (the glass), the approach is the shape of the glass, and all the composition will be the perfume inside the bottle. If some perfume falls outside the bottle, it will evaporate (and spoil your composition).

Think of a word or several words that will identify the topic. Think of a word or several words that will identify the approach. The topic is what your composition is about. Your approach is usually what your opinion about the topic is, or just the way you see it, or what you want to say about that topic. When you have the topic and the approach, write the opening sentence with both ideas.

Topic - Life in a village Approach - better than cities Opening sentence - Nowadays, most people prefer living in cities, but I prefer to live in a village because life there is much better and healthy.

Another example of O.S.- Life in a village is very different from life in the city. (topic: life in a village / approach: different from city)

2- ideas (points) connected to the opening sentence

Outline 1

Example of good points:

  • no pollution
  • people know each other
  • friendly people
  • contact with nature
  • life is cheaper

Example of bad points:

  • I live in Rome (not relevant to the O.S.)
  • Villages in the south of Spain are bigger than in the north (wrong, we must compare life in the village with life in the city, not comparing different villages)
  • Last year I visited a very beautiful village (not relevant to the O.S.)
  • Night life is boring (it contradicts the O.S. unless you compensate this with a “but…”)
  • People gossip and are nosy and messes with your life (modifies or contradicts the idea in the O.S.)
  • In the 14 th century many villages were created (who cares? We’re not talking about history)
  • My friend Tom lives in a village (not relevant, unless you use Tom’s opinion to support yours)
  • My friend Tom, from a village, is very friendly (digression: this idea is not directly connected with the O.S.. It is directly connected to the point “friendly people” and only indirectly connected to the O.S., so it’s no good)

3- details about the points  

Each point is the seed of a future paragraph (or section or chapter, if it is a long writing). For every point, think of a few details to explain that idea.

Example: - friendly people

  • people help you
  • people talk to you in the streets
  • people invite you to a drink in the bars

4- closing sentence  

Outline 2

1- a restatement of the opening sentence (you say the same idea but using different words) Example: There’s no doubt about it: life in a village is much better than life in a city .

2- a summary of the points (ideas) . Example: With a cheaper life, a close contact with nature, a healthy environment and surrounded by nice people, villages are the ideal place to live .

3- a look to the future . Example: I really think I should leave the city and look for a nice house in a village as soon as possible .

4- a related thought that grows out of the body (usually a conclusion from the points). Example: That’s why our urban societies are more efficient, but its people are less human .

5- mixed type (a combination of several types of conclusions) Example: That’s why I’m planning to move to a village, because life there is much better than in the cities (type 3 + type 1, even the whole sentence can be an example of type 4)

So if you follow this advice, you will find that writing turns easier and the results are much better than when you simply sit and write. Just remember the bottle of perfume:

  • The glass : The opening sentence. Your first sentence, which will contain all the ideas of your piece of writing inside.
  • The perfume : All the things you have to say. Don’t let even a drop fall outside the bottle.
  • The cap : The last sentence in your composition. The one that will close it and make it a finished piece of work.

Once you have a good outline, you must use it to write your composition, essay or whatever you must write. Things are now much easier when you know all the time exactly what you have to say, confident that you’ll never get tangled, blocked or messed up in your writing. We can also guide you in this second phase (steps 5-8), but that will be in our next article:

8 Steps to Write a Good Composition (part 2)

Written by Angel Castaño



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How to Write a Composition

how to write a composition

Do you want to excel in your English Language subject or exceed everyone’s expectations while taking an exam? Then you need to know how to prepare a great composition!

Compositions happen to be one of the most important aspects of learning the English Language. However, the task can be challenging and stressful in a sense that the topics are wide-ranging and the requirements are always strict. Don’t worry if you are not completely sure how to express your opinion on a particular topic correctly. With a few tips and tricks, you’ll be able to prepare the most effective writing piece whenever you need.

​Effective Planning Gives Right Direction

Planning is very important for preparing a great composition. It aids in organizing your thoughts, keeps good control over the writing process, motivates to write better and faster, and helps to keep on track.

To be more prepared for starting to write your composition, you need to answer the 5 W’s and 1 H:

1. Who is the main character of your story? 2. Where do the events take place? 3. When does it happen? 4. What happened? 5. Why did it occur? 6. How was everything solved?

After answering these questions and identifying the main purpose of your composition (to inform, persuade, entertain, call attention to something), you can proceed to writing.

​Use a Common Composition Structure

When writing a composition, it is essential to know its main parts. A typical composition in the English Language consists of the heading, introduction, main body and conclusion.

When choosing a title for your composition, make sure it relates to the presented content. Keep it short and catchy to grab the reader’s attention at once. A good title can range from two to several words and it is not recommended to use a heading that looks like a long and complex sentence.


The next important thing after the heading is the introductory paragraph. It basically lets the reader find out what your composition is about and makes him or her follow to the main part. Therefore, make sure that your introduction:

  • is interesting enough to hook the reader’s attention;
  • prepares your reader for what is to follow;
  • lets your reader know what your composition will be about;
  • is clear and not too lengthy.

If your introduction fails to catch the reader’s attention, then you’ve done not a great job. Consider to insert a dialogue, intriguing facts, shocking information or a joke to grab the reader’s interest.

After the introductory paragraph, make a smooth transition to the main part of your composition. This is the part where the main story develops. A good body should support the statement you’ve made in your introduction. It is where you express your feelings, thoughts and ideas on a particular topic.

While writing, keep the following things in mind:

  • keep the sentences simple and short for your reader to easily follow your thoughts;
  • avoid complex structures and expressions;
  • use transitional words and phrases to connect the sentences and paragraphs.

Remember that the main body is the heart of your composition, that’s why state the main points consistently and reasonably.

The conclusion is the last but not the least part of your composition. Never end your story abruptly, take time to beautifully conclude your work. Make sure that the last paragraph of your composition is simple and summarizes the main idea of your writing piece, not presents new points and opinions. This is a vital aspect of your composition, so it shouldn’t be underestimated.

​Pointers to Good Composition Writing

Take note of the following things while writing your composition:

1. Your writing should be concise, vivid and sharp. 2. Never use the slang if it doesn’t fit the format of your composition. 3. Don’t use the words if you are not sure about their meaning. 4. Keep your sentences short and not overwhelming. 5. Take care to do a clear and consistent point of view.

Revise your story once it is completed to make sure that you’ve prepared a masterpiece!

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