Single Paragraph Essay

An essay is defined as a short piece of writing on a particular subject, but is it possible for an essay to be just one paragraph? In short, yes! It is possible to condense the essence of the traditional, multi-paragraph essay format into a single-paragraph essay.

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Table of contents

    Meaning of Single Paragraph Essay

    The foundation of any essay is made up of the main idea, information that supports the main idea with commentary, and a conclusion. In a standard five-paragraph essay, these elements are typically given the space of at least a single paragraph for each.

    A single-paragraph essay is a condensed version of a traditional essay that includes the main idea, supporting details, and conclusion in the space of one paragraph. Just like a standard essay, single-paragraph essays convey the author's message through the use of rhetorical strategies (which we'll look at in more detail later in the explanation) and literary devices.

    Literary device: a way of using language that goes beyond the literal meaning of the words.

    Similes, metaphors, personification, symbolism, and imagery are common literary devices. These devices are creative writing tools that are effective in any context, including a single-paragraph essay, for the purpose of enhancing communication.

    Because of how short a single-paragraph essay must be, the main goal is to develop and support the main idea, using whatever means, as thoroughly and concisely as possible.

    Why Would You Write a Single Paragraph Essay?

    There are a few reasons you might need to write a single-paragraph essay. The first reason is that many exams include "short answer" responses, sometimes representing a hefty percentage of your overall score, which are essentially single-paragraph essays.

    Single-paragraph essays are also a great exercise in concise writing. If you're only given a few sentences to make a point and support it well, then you'll have to practice "trimming the fat" from your writing or removing anything that is not essential to your purpose. This is also an essential skill for writing even longer-format essays.

    Top tip: Keeping your paragraph to the widely-taught 4–5 sentence structure is a good rule of thumb for an average essay, but it is not always necessary. A paragraph can extend to as long as 8-10 sentences or more and still be a paragraph.

    Tips for Writing a Single Paragraph Essay

    Writing a single-paragraph essay can actually be more of a challenge than a several-page paper. Because of the space constraints, it is absolutely essential to make your point in a concise manner without sacrificing the message. This means leaving out filler language and any parts of the discussion that are not essential to making your point clear.

    One technique for writing a single-paragraph essay is to write a longer essay and narrow it down to one paragraph. If you are writing a short answer response in an exam, this wouldn't be an ideal approach due to the time constraints. If time isn't an issue, though, then then this strategy could help you to make sure you include only the most important aspects of a discussion in your one paragraph.

    Try the "necessity test" to narrow down your writing. This is the process of eliminating one sentence at a time and seeing if the author's point has been weakened. If it has, then you need to keep that sentence, but if it hasn't, then you can proceed until only the essential parts of the discussion remain.

    Another technique is to write down a short list of the ideas you want to get across with your single-paragraph essay. Once you've written down everything you believe is relevant to the discussion, go through your list and look for anything that can be combined or condensed in any way.

    If you find you're still having trouble condensing your discussion, then you might consider simplifying your main point. It's possible that you have too many supporting points, so perhaps pick the top two most effective ones and stop there.

    Single Paragraph Essay, A girl with glasses sitting in front of a laptop and biting a pencil, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Fitting everything into a single-paragraph essay can be a challenge.

    Types of Single Paragraph Essay

    As with a traditional essay, single-paragraph essays can be used to discuss any topic the writer has some knowledge about. This also means that single-paragraph essays can use any rhetorical strategy to make their point.

    Rhetorical strategies: also known as rhetorical modes, rhetorical strategies are ways of organizing communication so that it has the greatest effect on the listener or reader. These are specific patterns of organization to achieve the writer's goal for any text.

    Some of the more common rhetorical strategies are:

    • Comparison/contrast
    • Illustration
    • Description
    • Analogy
    • Classification

    Essays can be assigned based on a particular rhetorical strategy.

    Sometimes, an essay prompt, such as "Write a comparison/contrast essay analyzing the relationship between organic and non-organic produce production," may make it clear which rhetorical strategy should be used to answer the question.

    Other times, the author simply needs to understand these strategies well enough to know which to use in order to craft the best argument.

    So, in essence, any discussion in a multi-paragraph essay could also be covered in a single-paragraph essay. The only limitation of a shorter essay is, of course, the lack of space, so the writer has to make the best use of the paragraph they have.

    Single Paragraph Essay Structure

    An essay is a focused piece of writing that develops a particular idea through the use of evidence, analysis, and interpretation. Nowhere in that definition do we see any description of length, which means this could be accomplished over the course of several pages or a single paragraph.

    Unlike traditional essays, though, single-paragraph essays don't allow for much creative liberty. There is a basic structure that needs to be followed so that the paragraph will meet the criteria of an essay.

    Here is a basic single-paragraph essay outline:

    • Topic sentence (thesis statement)

    • Body support 1

      • Example

      • Concrete details

      • Commentary

    • Body support 2

      • Example

      • Concrete details

      • Commentary

    • Conclusion

    Single Paragraph Essay, A laptop and a cup on a table, StudySmarterFig. 2 - A tiered structure might look a little like this.

    Topic Sentence in a Single Paragraph Essay

    Every essay has a thesis statement.

    Thesis statement: a single, declarative sentence that summarizes the main point of an essay. Depending on the style of the essay, a thesis statement should almost always include the author's stance on the topic of discussion.

    In a single-paragraph essay, the thesis statement acts a lot like a topic sentence of a supporting body paragraph found in a traditional five-paragraph essay. Typically, the first sentence in a body paragraph – the topic sentence helps to organize the paragraph around the main idea that will be discussed. Since the essay will only be one paragraph long, the thesis statement and topic sentence are one and the same.

    Use the thesis statement to introduce the topic as well as the main idea you will be discussing. It is also helpful to briefly mention the supporting points you intend to bring in later in the paragraph.

    Thesis statement: The British Empire's ability to wreak havoc on trade, move large amounts of troops, and distribute resources by way of its navy gave them the power to dominate foreign territories.

    This is a good thesis statement because the writer shares their opinion on what made the British empire powerful. There are three pieces of evidence to show Britain's power (ability to wreak havoc on trade, move large amounts of troops, and distribute resources) which can be developed in the body of the essay.

    Body Support in a Single Paragraph Essay

    The body of the essay is where the writer develops concrete details to support the thesis statement. Supporting details can be anything that helps prove your point.

    Supporting details could include:

    • Statistical evidence and data.
    • Quotes from the discussed text or relevant experts in the field.
    • Examples of facts that support the thesis.
    • Details about events, people, or places that are relevant to the topic.

    In a single-paragraph essay, there isn't as much space as you're perhaps used to, so you must be concise and direct when presenting your support. There won't be much opportunity to expound and explain each detail, so make sure they can stand alone in support of your thesis.

    Also, include a brief commentary on the subject. This is your opportunity to connect your main idea or thesis to the supporting details and discuss how they interact.

    Conclusion in a Single Paragraph Essay

    As with the body support, your conclusion should be brief (likely no more than a sentence or two). Because you've conducted your discussion in the space of one paragraph, it is not necessary to restate your thesis in the conclusion as you would normally do in a multi-paragraph essay.

    You should make sure that your conclusion is clear and convinces the reader that you did indeed make your point. Include a short summary of the discussion, and that's about all you'll have room for!

    If you find your essay is longer than one paragraph, read through it one sentence at a time to see if every sentence contributes a different point. If you come across two sentences that are making the same or similar points, combine them into one sentence.

    Single Paragraph Essay Example

    Here is an example of a single-paragraph essay outline, including the topic sentence, body support 1, body support 2, and the conclusion.

    Charles Perrault's famous fairytale, "Little Red Ridinghood" (1697), is more than meets the eye. It is not just a story about a little girl who visits her grandma; it is an epic tale complete with a journey, villain, and challenges along the way for the protagonist.

    "Little Red Ridinghood" is structured like a piece of quest literature. There is a quester, a place to go, a stated reason to go, challenges and trials along the way, and a real reason to arrive at the destination. Little Red Ridinghood (quester) decides to visit her grandma because she believes she is not well (reason to go). She travels through a wood and meets a wolf with bad intentions (villain/challenge). After she is eaten by the wolf, the reader comes to know the moral of the story (real reason to go), which is "don't talk to strangers."

    Quest literature is not simply defined by structure, however. In quest literature, the hero usually does not know that the journey taken is a quest. So, the journey does not need to be epic in nature, and a hero is not required to save lives and fight battles – a young girl entering the woods not knowing that danger lurks around the corner is quest enough.

    So the next time you pick up a book, remember that even a bedtime story for children can hold inside an epic quest – just look for someone leaving on a journey, and you might be surprised where it takes you.

    Single Paragraph Essay - Key takeaways

    • A single-paragraph essay is a condensed version of a traditional essay that includes the main idea, supporting details, and a conclusion in the space of one paragraph.
    • Due to limited space, it is important to stick to facts and evidence alone, leaving out filler language.

    • A single-paragraph essay does require a thesis or main idea, but it only needs to be stated once.

    • There are several techniques to keeping your writing brief, such as the "necessity test" and/or making a list of your ideas and choosing the most relevant information.

    • A single-paragraph essay is a good format for "short answer" responses on exams.

    Frequently Asked Questions about Single Paragraph Essay

    What is a single-paragraph essay?

    A single-paragraph essay is a condensed version of a traditional essay that includes a main idea, supporting details, and a conclusion in the space of one paragraph. 

    What is an example of single-paragraph essay?

    A single-paragraph essay can be a response to a "short answer" question on an exam. 

    How do you write a single-paragraph essay?

    Write a single-paragraph essay by focusing on your main point and the supporting details. Avoid filler language, and try techniques such as the "necessity test" and writing down your ideas and choosing the most relevant information to keep it to the one-paragraph format.

    What are the types of single paragraph essay?

    Single-paragraph essays can be in the style of any type of "regular" essay. 

    How to organize a single paragraph essay?

    Organize a single-paragraph essay in the same format as a traditional essay with a thesis statement, supporting details, and a conclusion. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Incorrectly applied statistical evidence is the result of _____ or _____.

    You can’t be expected to get to the bottom of everything you read, because that’s impossible. This is why it's important to what?

    Which of the following is an example of a source you should not trust outright?


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