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Essay Structure Revealed!The shapes are a great way to remember the structure of the five-paragraph essay. At first a triangle seems like an odd way to represent an introduction, but when you notice that at first it covers a wide area and slowly narrows, you can see the analogy between it and a paragraph that slowly narrows its focus. Another way to understand it is to imagine a group of people sitting on the bleachers in the gym. You have a camera that takes in the whole group at first, but you as you zoom in, you see fewer and fewer people until you finally see just one. That’s the way a good intro works, covering a lot of area at first with general ideas but covering less and less as it gets more specific, finally sharply focusing on one idea. Of course, the triangle’s shape can be a little misleading: the sentences do not get shorter and shorter. ;) You can see multiple examples of this structure in action at Writing Introductions and Conclusions with examples. Some of the introductions use special techniques in addition to the general-to-specific structure.
The rectangles work well as symbols for body paragraphs because they look so solid and have the same structure each time. I probably need to point that while every paragraph I assigned always had the topic sentence first, that is not a rule, just a good practice.