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9.Paragraphs

Paragraphs provide a block of text centred around one step in a narrative. However, a lot about the writer and their approach to the topic can be gleaned just by looking at their shapes on a page.

A reader can make judgements about the quality of the content by the sizes of the paragraphs, without even reading a word. Don't try to read the examples, but just look at the shape of the paragraphs, because that is what a reader first sees.

When paragraphs have about the right amout of words -- somewhere between 70 to 120 -- a reader may feel that there is something worthwhile in the paragraph, without feeling that they may be overwhelmed.

When such paragraphs are about the same size, it can convey that the narrative is steadily making its point. This gives the reader a sense of confidence in the writer's ability to tell the story in an even-handed and measured manner.

Conversely, overly long paragraphs may indicate that the writer is:

  1. a.Trying to string too many related aspects together.
  2. b.Meadering in their explanations.
  3. c.Dumping an unstructured 'stream of consciousness'.

While in the midst of writing down an explanation, it is easy to build long sentences that link together related information. However, a reader is not privy to that level of connectedness of the material, and so has to discover that on-the-fly as they read.

There is only so much a reader can take in in one go. While trying to fathom the meaning, they are weighing up the possible directions that can follow on from what they are reading. The writer already knows the outcome, so they have less risk of confusion.

Stream of consciousness writing is just hard work for readers, and is a sign of a lazy or arrogant writer. People don't have to read what one writes, and will choose not to if it looks like too much work. Make it easy for readers to access the information you provide.

Sometimes, a short paragraph can be used to good effect, such as for:

  1. a.Asking a question, before offering an explanation.
  2. b.Succinctly summarising a line of reasoning.
  3. c.Making a key point.

Judicious use of such short paragraphs can give a reader a chance to look at the short paragraphs and quickly determine if they need to read the longer explanations.

While it may seem counter-productive to give reasons for readers not to read what you write, a reader will appreciate not having to read something they already know about, or are not interested in. That means they will be less likely to feel reader-fatigue with what else you write further down the page.

This highlights how paragraph size can signpost important points, without the gimmick of fancy formatting.

However, do not overuse short sentences, as they can indicate:

  1. a.A stringing together of disjointed half-baked ideas.
  2. b.Attempt at being too 'profound'.
  3. c.A need to use a list instead.

Variances can be effective because they present a contrast that highlights the variant. That is all lost when all are the same. Short sentences only stand out when they are not the norm.

Trying to use short sentences as a way of appearing wise is only effective if accompanied by explanations that demonstrate the wisdom. The simpleness encapsulates the complexity that you've shown you understand.

If trying to present a bunch of related, but shorter items, consider using a list, with an introduction that indicates how they are related.

Paragraphs are individual and can often stand alone, but have a greater meaning and effect in the relationships they have with each other. The visual size and spatial relationships can indicate those deeper relationships.

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TS: art-a 3ID: 2019-02-20-23-32-49Now: 2020-07-16-00-38-29Powered by: Smallsite Design©Patanjali SokarisManage