What Is a Paragraph?

by Pat Marcello on January 31, 2011

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This issue plagues school children from all over the world: What’s a paragraph, and how do you know when you’re ready for another?

This issue also plagues new writers from every genre.  Sometimes, they have no idea where to end a paragraph and begin a new one. Sometimes, they make paragraphs when they shouldn’t. So, how do you know when you’re ready for a new paragraph?

Simple.

Start a new topic.

You’ll notice that my paragraphs are very different above. And two of them aren’t what you would consider a traditionally proper paragraph at all. But one thing you have to realize is that you’re not writing for your 3rd-grade English teacher; you’re writing for your readers.

A traditional paragraph has at least three sentences — a topic sentence, a body sentence, and a closing sentence. But so what? Who cares? A paragraph, if you want it to stand out and readers to really get what you’re thinking, can be only but a single word.

If you want to be a better writer than the next guy, the important issue is reaching your readers. Think about what’s good for them, and writing life will be much easier for you.

So…  Every time you have a new topic, you create a new paragraph. Let’s look at this post.  The first paragraph is a single sentence. I’m talking about a problem as it affects kids. In the next, how it affects writers, and then, I go into deeper explanation and give you the answer. I do it in a  single word a single sentence. Makes sense for me because I think that will make better sense for you.

Also think about “white space” when writing. Having more of it makes what you’ve written easier to read, and on the ‘Net… that’s critical. So, where in a traditional book or article, I might not split up a paragraph, if I see a block of text that looks too long, I grab it and split it up so that it looks easier to read.

We’ve all gotten a tad lazy writing for the Web because anything goes, of course. Bloggers are often purveyors of bad spelling, horrible construction, and paragraphs that can go on for days. Sales pages have intentional mis-spellings. And some folks shouldn’t be writing AT all. But the Internet has made it possible for everyone and anyone who wants to put stuff out there to do so. I think that’s amazing.

Still, if you don’t use logical construction, proper spelling and punctuation, and all the things that everybody wants to read, why bother?

Write like you’re speaking to someone. Grab their attention with what you have to say, keep them reading, and your blog or articles will be the ones they keep coming back to for more.

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