I need to write about my American dream in five paragraphs. Please provide guidelines to set up my essay. 

Expert Answers
booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most important step in writing about your American dream in a five-paragraph essay is to brainstorm and decide what dream you feel most strongly about. In this way you will find it easier to support your topic in your body paragraphs. 

Your dream will need to be based upon what you believe you can achieve or be because you live in America. Over hundreds of years people emigrated to the United States to pursue their dreams in American, seeing this country as the land of opportunity—for some it was about making money and providing for family. For others it was enjoying freedoms not guaranteed in their native countries. Their dreams might inspire you.

In the brainstorming process, remember that a dream has no boundaries. So dream big! If you like sports, you might want to play professionally or manage a team. If you like music, perhaps you would hope someday to direct a famous orchestra or have a successful band. You might want to cure cancer or invent alternative forms of transportation. Get excited about your topic!

It is important to stay focused on your topic. If your dream is to play professional sports, you should not write about how hard it will be. Your focus is to share your American dream and the sky is the limit.

The American dream you choose will be stated in your first paragraph—the introductory paragraph. Check out How To Write an Introduction for Your Essay. It provides several examples of how to grab your reader's attention in the introduction. Next, identify the three most intriguing or exciting reasons this dream is important to you. Each reason will make up one of the three body paragraphs. The final paragraph will contain your conclusion.

For the introduction (which will be placed entirely in the first paragraph of the essay), you will need to identify your topic. You will want to state at the very beginning that your topic is your American dream. It should be followed by three general statements regarding the most important aspects of your dream. These three points should be placed in the order in which you intend to write about them in the body of the essay. There are many ways to organize your ideas. I would suggest presenting the least important aspect of your dream first. I would follow that with the second most important aspect, and finish with the most appealing part of your dream. Finally, end your introductory paragraph with a thesis statement:

When you write your thesis, don’t be shy: make a bold and factual statement that expresses your position.

If I were to write about wanting to go on a cruise, I would start my essay by stating that cruises make excellent vacations. (This is the topic of my essay.) Then I would give three reasons (without specifics or details) to go on a cruise. First, it is relaxing. Next, it is safer than flying. Finally, you can travel the world. This would be the order of my three body paragraphs as well. (The details to support these general statements would be found only in the body paragraphs.) I would then provide my thesis statement. I would state that a cruise is by far the finest vacation someone could take.

Of course, after this introduction, I would use the body paragraphs to convince the reader of the truth in my statement. (The body paragraphs will be the only place where you provide specific details.) In the first body paragraph, I would prove why a cruise is relaxing. I might list the accommodations, including massage services or yoga classes. The second body paragraph would provide information to support that it is safer than flying. The information for this could be found in reports that have been generated to prove the truth of this statement (if it is true...). In the third body paragraph I would describe the many places that are accessible by taking a cruise.

In the fifth and final paragraph of my essay, I would draw the conclusion (with general statements only) why a cruise is the best kind of vacation. I would restate the thesis statement and conclude that if one wishes to be catered to in a relaxing and safe environment, with access to countries throughout the world, taking a cruise is the best way to do all of these things at once.

Avoid the temptation to simply sit down and write an essay:

Write the essay. This is where most people start. Don't. If you start here, you're likely to find the process hard and the result mediocre.

Plan ahead, give yourself days to complete the work, not hours. When you rush the process, not only may your writing seem disorganized, but also you may become easily frustrated with the process.

I cannot write your essay for you, but I would suggest not only that you organize your essay in a similar fashion, but make it interesting as well because that becomes a form of bringing the reader to see what you see as valuable aspects of your dream.

Most likely you will write a descriptive essay. Use concise language: avoid overused and bland words like great, awesome, fun, etc. Go more for what I call "emotionally charged" words like magnificent, excellent, awe-inspiring, entertaining, etc. 

Choose vivid language.

Why use horse when you can choose stallion?

If you use concise details to create a crystal clear image of your dream, it will be easier to convince your reader why your dream is so desirable. It's not just about writing an essay. That's not the most important thing to take away from this exercise. It is about bringing your ideas to life on paper. Mastering the skill sharing your ideas in such a way allows you to communicate in the most effective way, well beyond a five-paragraph essay.

Perhaps the most important thing is to be organized. Without proper planning and an organized essay, not only will you lose your reader's interest, but your grade may not be as strong as you would like. 

When you brainstorm, don't worry about writing in complete sentences, but write! Don't lose that paper. If you find research to support your points, use reliable sources, and print them out to refer to later. It is easier not to use a source that you have than to try to locate a source that you didn't print, which could be anywhere on the Internet. 

When putting your ideas together, use index cards or Post-it notes, numbered. Make sure to keep them safe where the order will not be lost. The best thing about using this organizing technique is that it is easy to move things around (organize) before you being to type.

When you are finished typing—proofread, edit, proof read, and edit again! Put the essay down for an hour or two, and look at it later with a fresh eye! Ask someone you trust for their skills in writing and attention to detail to read your essay. They can give you feedback about areas that might confuse them. 

Finally, save all your sources in case you need to turn them in to your instructor. Do not plagiarize. If you copy something, put it in quotation marks. If you paraphrase, you cannot just change a word or two. You should not even copy the structure of the the sentence, for this is also considered plagiarism, which is a serious and many times costly mistake to make. Use the idea, but put it into your own words.