A work colleague emailed me today with a potential blog idea which was: “When to start a new paragraph, especially when there is a lot to say on one subject, so that it’s not all hunched up but easier to read on the eye”. I decided to use this topic for today’s post and made a few notes earlier as follows:
- Always remember to add titles to break up your writing piece, making it easier on the eye.
- For each new idea or change of subject start a new paragraph.
- Don’t make the paragraphs too long – it can make the reader feel intimidated and they may choose to stop reading.
- Use no more than three or four sentences in a paragraph – although there is no fixed rule.
After a bit more research
An article by Victoria Grossack called Passing Paragraphs (on Fiction Fix website) explains that the word paragraph comes from the Greek word paragraphos, which is “a line marking a change in the speakers of dialogue (classical Greeks are famous for their plays, and so this would be very important)”. The article also has some excellent tips on the fiction side, some of which can also be used for non-fiction writing. One such tips was to take care when using short paragraphs as this can also put people off.
Victoria’s article is also a good example of how to present a long piece of work. It wasn’t onerous to read as it contained headings, indented points/lists and italicised sections; the whole article is easy on the eye. It also ended with a neat conclusion.
Another website Bob Brooke’s Writers’ Corner contained an article explaining that people may have only learnt one thing about paragraphs – that each should contain a topic sentence. His best tip is: “try to limit your paragraph to five lines–not sentences. If it’s too long, break it down into a series of paragraphs or subtopics”.
The answer that Wiki Answers gives in response to the question When should you make a new paragraph? is “the basic answer is … whenever you want to. The more techical answer is whenever the topic changes. Paragraphs are like little ideas – start a new paragraph when you start a new idea”. Wiki contributors have also added a variety of tips as to when to start a new paragraph e.g. “when you are ending your introduction” and “when you are starting your conclusion”.
My thoughts: In summary, try to present your work so that it’s easy for the reader to follow i.e. ensure that you have ample headings, make sure that one paragraph flows into another, change paragraphs when introducing new ideas and topics, and don’t make your paragraphs too long (or too short). Good luck!
This blog post forms part of my writing challenge. Don’t forget that you can subscribe to receive my daily blogs by email so that you don’t miss any. Just click ‘sign me up’ on the home page. Alternatively you can follow my blogs on Twitter or my ‘Tips and Luxuries‘ Facebook page. Requests for future blogs (punctuation/grammar/writing tips) are always welcome.
Please visit www.sandramadeira.com for more information on my services as a freelance writer.
Twitter: @madeirasandra @tipsandluxuries @OpenLeafJourney