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Volume 4

a note from author jake sigmond

WRIT 1122: Rhetoric and Academic Writing
Professor David Daniels

The piece you are about to read was our final assignment in WRIT 1122. David Daniels, my professor, believes assignment guidelines should be flexible, allowing students to take various approaches and create unique writing. Our assignment was to write a paper that supported or refuted the structure and teaching methods of the 5-paragraph essay. Throughout middle and high school, I was forced to write these essays once a week, and my experience learning the 5-paragraph essay was not a pleasant one. Given the opportunity to voice my opinion, I decided against the 5-paragraph essay format and treated it as a disease. It’s only appropriate, then, that my paper offers an antidote to this disease and mimicks a self-diagnostic website. This piece is designed to poke fun at the 5-paragraph essay, while also communicating my point about the restrictive format. I hope you enjoy it.

Sigmond 1 
© jannoon028 /

Mystery Medical
Diagnosing bizarre illnesses since 1995
Medical advice brought to you by Dr. Jake Sigmond

Medical Condition: 5-Paragraphitis (I3BC: Intro 3-Body Conclusion)


5-Paragraphitis (I3BC) is a common and highly contagious illness. If you or a loved one shows symptoms of 5-Paragraphitis (I3BC), seek immediate help from a writing professor, trained writing tutor, or your local campus Writing Center. Just DO NOT ask your high school teacher.



Please read the paragraphs below and choose the one that seems most effective to you. Both discuss the importance of a tree.

Paragraph 1:
As citizens of the United States, we need to promote the conservation and protection of trees for three reasons. First, trees consume carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, which is a waste product of our respiration and industrial power plants. Second, trees and other plants are food for many animals in the ecosystem, which factor into our food chain. Last, trees make the world a beautiful place. Given these three qualities, it is only common sense that we strive to conserve and protect all forms of trees.

Paragraph 2:
What don’t I like about trees? Well, I love sitting under them on a calm, blissful spring evening, when the fireflies flutter around the lake. I enjoy the marvelous colors that trees fill the world with come fall. Sometimes, I’ll find a fairly large spruce tree and take a leisurely climb to the top to peer over the valley. Interestingly, I found out in 4th grade that trees produce oxygen for me to breathe, so I can keep going about my daily activities. In fact, there isn’t anything I dislike about trees. I agree with the poet Joyce Kilmer, who once wrote, “I THINK that I shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree.” What would we do without them?  

Which paragraph did you find more appealing?
Which paragraph would you prefer to read?
Which paragraph have you been trained to write?

If your answer to any of these questions was Paragraph 1, you might be suffering from  5-Paragraphitis (I3BC).



5-Paragraphitis (I3BC) is a disease caused by overuse of the 5-paragraph essay, affecting both individual paragraphs and the overall structure of an essay. It is the inability to write in anything but the 5-paragraph form, with all of its strict rules and guidelines. While straying from such rules may result in low scores on standardized tests or low grades in classes that stress the form, it also may result in Writer Paralysis (WP). WP is the inability to create unique writing that strays from standardized forms, that challenges society, that is at all interesting, or that exhibits an ounce of individual creativity.

Michelle Tremmel, a leading researcher on 5-Paragraphitis (I3BC), states: “As opponents of the formula have analogized, the genre is an uninspired and uninspiring ‘neurotic activity’ ... [that] precludes meaningful thinking and organizing...” (33-4).

5-Paragraphitis (I3BC) results in writing that is no longer enjoyable for readers and writers alike. 5-Paragraphitis (I3BC) conforms every student into the same average, insipid human being, or better yet, Writing Zombies (WZs). [For more information on WP and WZ, see Brannon et al. and Tremmel.]

5-Paragraphitis (I3BC) primarily targets the hippocampus and temporal lobes of the brain, preventing students from learning any other forms of writing.

It seems most people who contract the disease get it from being exposed to too many 5-paragraph essays or to someone imposing the “benefits” of the 5-paragraph essay. Hearing, reading, seeing, writing, even touching multiple 5-paragraph essays leaves you vulnerable to the disease.

“The structure of the 5-paragraph essay is brilliant! It’s simple, concise, and informative. In fact it’s perfect for making arguments. I should teach others of the benefits of the 5-paragraph essay…” If you ever hear anyone say something resembling any of the previous passage, turn around, cover your ears, and walk away. This individual is clearly infected with the disease and is likely very contagious.

People of all ages and levels of experience are susceptible to 5-Paragraphitis (I3BC). It doesn’t matter how or when you are exposed to the 5-paragraph essay; given enough time, it will find a way to bind to your thought process and infect the mind with 5-Paragraphitis (I3BC).

Another cause of the disease is temptation. The 5-paragraph essay is simplistic. Overexposure tricks the mind into thinking that writing is a quick and easy process, which seems appealing when there are better things to do like reading friends’ Facebook posts or hiking in the foothills. If you show any symptoms, immediately seek help.



•  Writer’s Block
•  A bizarre and almost innate feeling to want to write simplistically
•  An aversion to writing in general
•  An inability to form imaginative thoughts
•  Conformity



Because 5-Paragraphitis (I3BC) is not your common cold, it is difficult to get rid of. Although there are no known cures for the disease at this time, there have been a few suggested techniques to help lessen the severity of 5-Paragraphitis (I3BC).

Experts from the UNC Charlotte Writing Project Collaborative say, “Students who do not conform to the five-paragraph-essay indoctrination, whose thoughts do not easily lend themselves to the five-paragraph-theme format, learn quickly that they and those ideas do not belong in the classroom” (Brannon et al., 20).

 One of the most important steps for getting rid of the disease is to open up and embrace the fear of unknown writing. Practice writing in real-world genres. Do not restrict your mind. Unlock the vaults of creativity, tame the dragon, and release the great thoughts kept dormant from the disease. Sometimes, the best arguments do not follow standardized forms. Do not be afraid of defeat either. While trying to get rid of the disease, expect to go through 5-paragraph essay withdrawal. During the battle you will experience breakdowns, but these breakdowns are crucial for your writing to improve.

Good Luck. Help end 5-Paragraphitis (I3BC)!



Q: If I have 5-Paragraphitis (I3BC), should I assist or teach my younger siblings to write?

A: Any person suffering from this illness should abstain from influencing anyone in the topic of writing. 5-Paragraphitis (I3BC) is contracted easily and it is best to be precautious.

Q: At what age does 5-Paragraphitis (I3BC) start to show up?

A: Although 5-Paragraphitis (I3BC) is age independent, symptoms often first appear during middle school, peaking especially during preparation for CSAP’s, SAT’s, ACT’s, or other standardized writing tests.

Q: Is 5-Paragraphitis (I3BC) lethal?

A: Although there have been cases of the disease so extreme that individuals required immediate writing intervention, the disease is not lethal.

Sigmond 2
© Steven Depolo /

About the author

Sigmond BioLocally raised in Broomfield, Colorado, Jake spent most of his childhood in a cycle of perpetual longing. His summers were spent exploring the mountains but fantasizing about the snow-covered slopes winter had to offer. In the winter, he missed the beaming summer days relaxing next to a lake. Other than activities in the mountains, Jake enjoys fishing, basketball, tennis, cooking, and listening to countless hours of music. He is currently a sophomore electrical engineering major trying to determine the direction of his future. Jake and his friends once camped outside Magness Arena for hockey season tickets. They stayed up the whole night exchanging childhood stories and are all best friends to this day.

Works cited

Brannon, Lil, Jennifer Courtney, Cynthia P. Urbanski, Shana V. Woodward, and Jeanie Reynolds. “The Five-Paragraph Essay and the Deficit Model of Education.” English Journal 98.2 (2008): 16–21.

Tremmel, Michelle. “What to Make of the Five-Paragraph Theme: History of the Genre and Implications.” TETYC (2011): 29–42. Web.