Before You Hit Publish: How Long Are Your Paragraphs?

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“But I’m just writing!”

I know, dear blogger. I know you think you’re just writing it all down, getting it all out, with no thought of grammar, punctuation, capitalization, or hitting “enter” on your keyboard.

But if you are simply writing a journal, why isn’t your blog private? Why aren’t you just typing into Microsoft Word or even using your fluffy pink pen in your journal?

Chances are, if you have a blog you have the intention of someone else reading it. That someone may be family members, a specific population (Cat Lovers from Canada, Baseball Fanatics from Beirut), or just the general public.

And whether that population is full of geniuses or English majors or repairmen or sales clerks or flight attendants or homeless people, they still need to be able to read your blog, easily. Or they aren’t going to stick around.

I think the very easiest way to make your blog readable is by using short paragraphs.

When you read a book, do you read every word? Or do you, like me, sometimes get bored and skip ahead to the next place where there’s a quotation mark or just to the next paragraph?

Living in the age of information fatigue (Information Sickness, Marilyn Johnson calls it in her book about librarians), our brains are fine-tuned to only accept so much text at one time. White space is king—or at least that’s what my graphic designer told us when we were trying to cram more content on each page of a Bible study.

Can you honestly say you would read more of this:

Growing up, my entire extended family went camping for a week at in Ohio. We spent hours riding bikes, exploring the park, and playing games; and we ended the week with a fantastic trip to an amusement park, where we all wore matching t-shirts. But my favorite memories are those of times spent around the campfire and the delicious meals my grandfather would prepare for all 30 of us each day. He percolated coffee on the motor home’s tiny electric stove while making bacon and eggs for five daughters and their families. He supplied the Hershey’s bars for many, many, many s’mores. He had coolers of soda cans and water and an unending stockpile of bread loaves for campfire pizzas, sandwiches, and pies. I don’t know how he got it all to the campsite! I have wonderful memories of stories shared and bonds formed around the campfire. A Labor Day-weekend camping trip is a perfect excuse to get your teens away from their friends and out to the wild, where old-fashioned talking in person can occur. Here are some campfire recipes to make while you create memories with your family.

Or this?

Growing up, my entire extended family went camping for a week at in Ohio. We spent hours riding bikes, exploring the park, and playing games; and we ended the week with a fantastic trip to an amusement park, where we all wore matching t-shirts.

But my favorite memories are those of times spent around the campfire and the delicious meals my grandfather would prepare for all 30 of us each day.

He percolated coffee on the motor home’s tiny electric stove while making bacon and eggs for five daughters and their families. He supplied the Hershey’s bars for many, many, many s’mores. He had coolers of soda cans and water and an unending stockpile of bread loaves for campfire pizzas, sandwiches, and pies. I don’t know how he got it all to the campsite!

I have wonderful memories of stories shared and bonds formed around the campfire. A Labor Day-weekend camping trip is a perfect excuse to get your teens away from their friends and out to the wild, where old-fashioned talking in person can occur. Here are some campfire recipes to make while you create memories with your family.

(That’s an article I wrote for Living with Teenagers, if you do actually read it!)

I will admit what I find even more awful than one long paragraph is starting a new paragraph but not putting a line in between the paragraphs. I’m not sure how one even does that, but it does happen.
Like this.
AGHHHH!

Don’t think this is my personal vendetta. At Blissdom I heard Simple Mom say paragraphs should only be two sentences long. Copyblogger says three to four sentences, tops.

Remember: when blogging, you are writing an article. Not a book. They are very different approaches.

Use paragraphs. Vary the number of sentences you use in each one. Try to keep ’em short. Your readers will thank you, I promise.

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Reading Like a Writer: You don’t have to read unless you want to, but take the time to scan a magazine, a young adult novel, a work of classic fiction, and a contemporary novel or nonfiction piece. How does paragraph length change between the works? What about typeface?

While you’re there, read something you wouldn’t normally pick up—like your husband’s science fiction books or your mom’s feminist manifestos.

3 thoughts on “Before You Hit Publish: How Long Are Your Paragraphs?

  1. Love, love, love!! I want, and need, to read this entire series! Excellent post, I will most definitely NOT read an article that drones on and on with no division for paragraphs. Ugh. And, although I am not perfect, I have a low tolerance for grammar errors! If you are going to blog, please have some sense of the English language; i.e., loose and lose, their and there, wear and were, etc., etc. It isn’t that I want to pick them apart, I am embarrassed for them! But I digress, I shall get back to reading your posts and see what I can learn. Love your site! ♥

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