Do you remember learning the five-paragraph theme in freshman comp?
Every essay opens with an introductory paragraph that has your thesis statement as the final sentence. Then, write three body paragraphs, each starting with a topic sentence to support your thesis and each ending with a transition sentence that leads your reader to the next paragraph. Finally, conclude with a paragraph that restates your thesis statement.
Not a lot of wiggle room for creativity, right? And the constrictions of that five-paragraph theme definitely don’t fit into the digital era. Or do they…?
When you google info on blog post structure, you’ll find tons of guides on how to structure a listicle, a how-to, a product review, and so on.
I’d argue that the basic blog post structure should be the same, regardless of your topic. And it starts with a return to basics: the five-paragraph theme.
The best intro paragraphs hook the reader and compel them to read the rest of the post. Capture your reader with a short, punchy sentence or two, then give them the main idea of your post in another two or three sentences. Introductions should be brief; their only purpose is to set your reader up to want more!
Introductions warrant an entire blog post to themselves, but some of the most successful start with a startling fact or figure, a question (see above!) that relates to the readers’ experiences, or an anecdote that many people can relate to or sympathize with.
Actionable Body Paragraphs
Sure, they might not be full-blown, traditional paragraphs (topic sentence + 3-5 sentences + transition sentence), but your post needs to be making some kind of point, right? Whether you choose to write a standard paragraph, share a series of bullet points, or even a numbered list, your post has a purpose and that purpose is conveyed in the body.
Unlike a freshman comp essay, though, the body of a blog post should be broken up into sections, usually with subheadings to indicate section division. Like those essays, try sticking with no more than three main points. Attention spans are just too short to cover more ground than that (unless you’re writing a purposeful long-form post, but that’s another topic for another day).
How do you want your reader to feel at the end of your post? What do you want them to do? Your conclusion is your final chance to drive home your point.
You’ve probably noticed many blog posts ending with a question. The goal, of course, is to inspire readers to comment… but it has to be an inspiring question to get people to take that extra step!
Three steps will speed up the writing process and make this interpretation of the five-paragraph theme work for your blog post structure:
- Write an outline. It doesn’t have to be in Roman numerals or complete sentences. Just get your thoughts down so that you can reorganize them and reorder them for maximum impact.
- Draft your body paragraphs from the outline. Make adjustments as needed. Add in those subheads. Then draft the conclusion.
- Write the introduction last. My outline usually starts with a note at the top that says something like “Witty intro goes here” or “Question intro here.” Once the rest of the post is complete, the outline fully fleshed out, the intro almost writes itself because you know how to push the reader in.
Tell us: Does the five-paragraph theme bring back memories of freshman comp? Of analyzing the symbolism in “The Tell-Tale Heart” or the hero’s journey in Greek mythology?
Or, even better, how can you interpret this theme to your blog? How can you reinvent the five-paragraph theme for your blog post structure?
Maggie Marton serves as the BlogPaws senior editor. When not hiking with her two pit mixes, Emmett and Cooper, or playing with Newt the Cat, Maggie writes about them (and the pet industry) at ohmydogblog.com and maggiemarton.com.