This two-part video offers 26 ways to organize an essay other than the familiar “5-paragraph essay.”

The 5-paragraph essay is a rudimentary essay structure taught in schools. It is not the only way to organize your writing. It doesn’t give you the freedom to follow a natural train of thought or to say anything other than “here’s a thesis, and here are three reasons you should believe it.” In fact, there are an infinite number of ways to organize an essay simply because there are an infinite number of ways to think. These two videos will explain and visually represent 26 ways to structure your essay. They are:

Video 1:
1. Problem-solving
2. Analysis
3. Processes
4. Explore and evaluate
5. If-then chain
6. Cause-effect
7. Comparison
8. Classification
9. Competing perspectives
10. Ouevre
11. Contemporary issue

Video 2:
12. Building blocks
13. Exemplification
14. Analysis of multiple items
15. Comparison (candidates)
16. Unfolding theme
17. Contrasting relationships
18. Point-by-point rebuttal

19. Relating an event
20. Hindsight
21. Memoir thread

22. Malcolm Gladwell
23. Alice Walker
24. Oprah Winfrey
25. Manohla Dargis
26. Gordon Ramsay

In these videos, you can learn a wide variety of kinds of things you can say in an essay. So, watch the videos, get some good all-purpose ideas regardless of what kind of essay it is you’re writing, take pieces from different examples, and let your mind follow its own natural course of thought, depending on what it is you have to say, mixing and matching as you go.

There are a multiplicity of essay genres in which you can write: blogs, reviews, letters the the editor, memoirs, graphic novels, and dramatic monologues. All of them include a beginning in which you introduce and idea, a middle where you develop that idea, and a conclusion in which you tell your reader what to do about it.

Don’t be nervous about letting go of that familiar, rigid, traditional formula. This is what freedom feels like! Free your mind and let it follow its own curiosity and creative impulses. Your thinking will be more interesting and consequently your writing will be better.

Special thanks to Dr. Kathleen Dudden Rowlands of California State University-Northridge, Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein, and Cornelius Minor of the TCRWP.

I am fully aware that this video is imperfect (hey, growth mindset, right?), but I am likely to revise it at some point. Please leave comments and suggestions in the comment section if you’re watching on YouTube, email me at, or reach me on Twitter @mistersato411.

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© Daniel Sato