For you to write a nice-looking story, blog post, report, or book, you need to write good paragraphs. And, writing good paragraphs requires knowledge of the essential elements namely, order, completeness, coherence, and unity.
Knowing these four ingredients makes it easier for you to know when or how to separate paragraphs.
You will always hear me say that writing is a balancing act, and it’s the same thing in this case. Sometimes you cover technical topics that require meaty paragraphs and in other contexts, shorter paragraphs are needed to improve the aesthetic dynamic of a blog post.
I assure you, nobody comes to your blog expecting to see massive chunks of paragraphs—nobody’s got time for that!
So, let me share some insights on the art of paragraphing.
What Determines the Length of a Paragraph?
Well, the length of a paragraph depends on a lot of factors, but in general, it is determined by content, audience, and tone.
When you’re writing with your readers in mind, you’re mainly concerned with making your text as aesthetically pleasing as possible and, at the same time, as logically sound as it can be.
See? That’s part of the balancing act.
Technical content requires thorough explanations and hence the stuffy paragraphs; on the other hand, normal day-to-day topics have a casual tone usually and have thinner paragraphs, and writers are more concerned with making them look delicious.
A reader seeking to understand some technical concept might understand the use of massive blocks of text, as long as they make sense, have meaning, and are logical.
You won’t have a lot of success with “walls of text” on your gardening blog though, neither will it be helpful for you to use short paragraphs in quick succession.
However it is worth noting that even when covering technical topics it’s good to use short paragraphs now and then, and… don’t be afraid to start a new paragraph as soon as you are done explaining a point or when there’s a transition in that explanation.
The Importance of Paragraphs
People always complain that the “reading culture” is dying… honestly, it can’t die. However, without paragraphs, it would have been dead already.
Here’s why paragraphs are important:
Paragraphs Make Reading Easier
Imagine reading a whole Harry Potter book from the first page to the very end with no paragraph break…
Oh, my! Would it still be a nice read?
The pace you use affects the mood of your story, helps you develop ideas and themes, engages your readers, and brings them closer to the story.
Longer paragraphs are often used to slow down the pace because they take longer to read. Wonder why you often sleep when reading academic stuff? It has to do with longer sentences used in formal writing, which slow down the pace and make reading a boring thing to do sometimes.
Shorter sentences and paragraphs increase the pace of your story (writing in general) and make it livelier. However, longer paragraphs are just as important when you want the reader to slow down and get immersed in the story.
Paragraphs are essential when you want to indicate a transition from one part of your argument to the next.
Even before the reader starts reading a new paragraph, just seeing a break gives them a hint of a change in the direction of the argument or the beginning of a completely new argument.
Emphasizing a Key Point
If you have a couple of key points stuffed in one paragraph, one of the arguments is likely going to become obscure, hidden under the heaps of words in that paragraph.
To avoid such scenarios, make sure that each paragraph discusses just one main idea, a single primary point that your reader can identify and associate the paragraph with.
You can include supporting arguments in the paragraphs. When you’re done with that argument, start a new paragraph to indicate a change of focus.
How to Separate Paragraphs
For established writers, separating paragraphs isn’t a worrying thing, but knowing when or how to separate paragraphs doesn’t come naturally.
So, here are some helpful insights:
Whether you have long or short paragraphs, paragraph breaks ought to be visually clear. There should be enough space in between paragraphs or the first line of a new paragraph, especially when you’re writing fiction.
A). Line Space
Using line spacing is the most common method of separating paragraphs. Most often an entire line space is added between paragraphs, thereby creating a solid, visual separation of the paragraphs.
This method improves readability, heightens emphasis, and adds a tidy look to the passage.
Indents are another way of separating paragraphs and work perfectly if you want to save some space.
Apart from separating paragraphs, indents—just like line spaces—are also used to keep the reader engaged with smaller loaves of text.
So, indents also improve readability while adding some panache and creativity to the passage. There are different kinds of indents, some of which are:
- First Line Indent: Indenting the first line of each new paragraph. The recommended depth of first-line indents is between ¼ and ½ inch or 5 spaces.
- Extreme Indent: Using this type of indent, the first line or the first few lines are set deeper than the usual distance. This technique is used in newspapers and magazines and can be used to create a stylish, unique look.
- Outdent (Hanging Indent): Instead of lying deeper in the column like an indent, an outdent extends outside of the left margin. This unique technique adds a dramatic look for articles in magazines, web pages, and brochures.
When to Start a New Paragraph
When do you start a new paragraph? Should it be a random thing? Should you use changes in the content as signposts?
Yes, you should observe and make use of changes in your story or whatever you’re writing.
It’s time to start a new paragraph when:
- You start a new topic. Nobody wants to read your run-on paragraphs, so when you’re done with one idea or topic, start a fresh paragraph.
- A new character begins to speak. The rule is one speaker per paragraph.
- There’s a change in time or location. Whether a character has recollections or the story has advanced to another timeline, start a new paragraph. Likewise, if the story or character moves in or out of a location, or moves to a different location, begin a new paragraph.
- You want to create a dramatic effect. Starting a new paragraph—especially a one-liner—helps the writer emphasize a key point, infuse something humorous, and control the pace of the passage.
Helpful Suggestions for Writing an Effective Paragraph
Here are some tips for writing effective paragraphs:
An effective paragraph includes a topic sentence and only elaborates only one topic. The writer crafts some sentences, supporting the top by giving details or facts about the topic.
Even when you’re explaining some technical content, do not write run-on sentences. Every sentence you put in that paragraph has to stick to the topic and should logically flow.
Paragraph starters should be unique and the sentences used throughout the entire paragraph should be grammatically correct.
Paragraphs are important in any type of writing, be it fiction or nonfiction. They make reading easier, control pace, and help with transitions among many uses.
The secret to creating effective paragraphs is knowing when to start a new paragraph and how to separate two paragraphs.
There are paragraphing rules; although not set in stone, but still important conventions that one has to follow, and it’s only prudent to know them.
Keep reading and researching to improve your craft, and keep coming back to this blog for more educational articles.