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A Few Tips On Paragraph Length

Posted by on 10th Aug 2009 | 4 comments

short_paragraphsIn recent articles I’ve covered The Four Types of Sentences and Their Purpose, Sentence Structure and Coordination, and Write Better Paragraphs by Using Patterns of Development.

I was recently asked to cover the topic of paragraph length. There is no set rule as to how long or short a paragraph should be, but there are a few guidelines we can follow. It’s very useful to bloggers to use short informative paragraphs. Reading on a computer screen can be very difficult for some people, so using shorter paragraphs with lots of white space is the preferred method.

A paragraph is simply a group of combined sentences that details one idea. If you have multiple topics to cover under the same general idea, you should give each point its own paragraph.

If you first create an outline (like the example below) you should be able to put the key points into paragraph form.

1. First Topic (First Paragraph)
a. topic sentence
b. supporting fact
c. supporting fact

2. Second Topic (Second Paragraph)
a. topic sentence
b. supporting fact
c. supporting fact

As I mentioned, there is no golden rule for paragraph length, but in general, a paragraph should be about five-to-ten sentences in length. Some paragraphs will only contain one or two sentences (depending on the subject matter) while other paragraphs may contain more than ten sentences to effectively relay the message to the reader.

Tips to Keep Paragraphs on Track:

Start with a topic sentence. The topic sentence can be anywhere in the paragraph but is generally found at the beginning.

The topic sentence should be clear, concise and specific.

The topic sentence should organize the paragraph.

Sentences should be focused. Each sentence in the paragraph should be focused to the topic sentence.

Paragraphs should have coherence. Each sentence in the paragraph should have a relationship will all other sentences in the paragraph and follow a logic order.

Quick Checklist:

1. Can you (and the reader) identify the topic sentence?
A. Does it summarize the paragraph?

2. Is the paragraph unified?
A. Does every sentence relate to the topic sentence?

3. Is the paragraph coherent?
A. Does each sentence flow logically from one to the next?

Following these simple tips and removing any sentences that aren’t related to the topic of the paragraph should ensure that your paragraphs are a good length and not too wordy.

When writing tight, precise paragraphs, be sure to make every word count. Do not use redundant words or reword sentences to repeat them. This can be very annoying to the reader.

There are no written rules for paragraph length but it’s good practice to keep them as short and concise as possible.

Patti runs several websites covering PLR/Niche Content, and strives to help others through life coaching and personal development.

4 comments - Leave a reply
  • Posted by Rob O. on 10th Aug 2009

    Patti, thanks for addressing this!

    I find that I often end up splitting and restructuring long paragraphs that I wrote in the first draft on a blog during subsequent edits. Part of this may stem from some old-school (ok, Junior High & beyond) writing classes where more formal structure was emphasized including, for example, a conclusion statement at the end of a paragraph. So, I tend to be more comfortable writing longer paragraphs, yet I know that shorter ones are much more commonplace now – especially in the online world.

  • Posted by David Stillwagon on 10th Aug 2009

    I find that when reading paragraphs the shorter the better. It seems that many people forget to stay on subject when writing a simple paragraph.

  • Posted by Knoxville Website De on 10th Aug 2009

    Thanks for sharing these guidelines Patti. What you have outlined will certainly create a better user experience.

  • Posted by Karl on 17th Aug 2009

    Great article Patti. I think it is important for all writers to create an outline before starting on a writing assignment. In addition, keeping paragraphs short and coherent are equally important.