Traveling Beyond the Five Point Essay

Different cultures have different ways of writing essays. It’s a fact that’s very obvious, but the United States can be so ethnocentric that we often never learn about simple things like this. Yes, if you’ve grown up in the land of the of the five-point essay, then it might be hard to think about essay writing any other way.

For those not familiar with the five-point, or five paragraph essay, it is a common goal in the U.S. education system that people learning to write should be able to defend a thesis (main argument) in about five key points. The argument is presented in the first paragraph, or introduction, and then reiterated in the last paragraph, the conclusion. A minimum of three body paragraphs filled with facts supporting the thesis are then sandwiched between those introductory and a concluding paragraphs.

Making sandwiches is a very U.S. American thing to do.

After everything is researched, all information is cited properly and bundled into a little non-nonsense package.  However, if people in other countries have differing beliefs about everything from time management to audiovisual aesthetics to the way they see themselves in society, the way they might employ language can be drastically different.

When I was still just a volunteer ESL teacher in college, my students from Latin American countries like Peru and Mexico seemed to really enjoyed using narratives in their essay writing. This wasn’t believed to take away from the fast and hard scientific facts that we tend to value. This also resulted in writing that was warm and experiential.

When I was trained as a writing center consultant in university, I found that my Chinese clients were fond of sprinkling tidbits of history and cultural knowledge across their essays. And to the dismay of their professors, they were a lot less likely to have a citation for this information because it is thought to be freely shared by society. When they included narratives in their writing, it was often focused on family memories.

I have studied Japanese for a long time, so I’ve had to step out of my writing comfort zone numerous times to impress my sensei. A thesis is not revealed in the beginning paragraph of a Japanese essay. You are given background information on the topic in question and then perhaps a dilemma or puzzle to ponder. Then, you are taken through the writer’s winding understanding as they reach a logical conclusion.

Amazing, isn’t it? With expertise backed by a global perspective, we hope to offer you something more than the average five point here at DAEDAL. And we’d love to hear more about essay writing in your part of the world.

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