Use short paragraphs


Looks better, doesn't it? And, of course, the paragraphs can be even shorter than these.

A question often comes up about this time: "But isn't a paragraph a paragraph? Can we start paragraphs just anywhere?"

We can't start paragraphs anywhere, but there are many options. The old (un) truism is this: "Each paragraph should represent a separate thought. Some thoughts take longer than others; therefore, some paragraphs may be very long."

To some extent, paragraphs do represent separate thoughts, but what is a "thought," anyway? Every sentence contains at least one thought and probably several. True, a new paragraph can signal the next major thought, but business writing has a better technique: headings.

If you use headings—and I highly recommend them—you can paragraph almost visually beneath them. The headings show the boundaries of the major "thoughts."

Also, think about newspapers—just how long are their paragraphs? Their paragraphs are short—because long paragraphs would be quite forbidding in narrow newspaper columns.

In fact, if you give the same text to a newspaper editor and to a textbook editor to divide into paragraphs, you'd get different results: the newspaper editor would give you many short paragraphs; the textbook editor would give you longer ones (because textbook columns are much wider). In other words, both editors would paragraph—to some extent— visually. And that's what I recommend you do, too. Now let's look at a related topic.

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