When To Start a New Paragraph

63

Short paragraphs put air around what you write and make it look inviting, whereas one long chunk of type can discourage the reader from even starting to read.

WILLIAM ZINSSER

This quote comes via one of my favorite blogs, AdviceToWriters.com. It’s not a normal blog. Instead of his own articles, the creator, Jon Winokur, simply publishes daily quotations on writing by writers. They are normally thought-provoking and often inspiring. I share them almost everyday on the WriteAtHome Facebook page, but you should think about subscribing directly.

This quote by William Zinsser, author of my favorite book on writing — On Writing Well — resonates with every writing teacher. It also seemed serendipitous, since it relates to a post I did recently on the required length of paragraphs.

Most of us were taught that a good paragraph begins with a topic sentence that contains the main idea, followed by some number of body sentences, and ending with a concluding sentence that brings closure to the paragraph. This kind of instruction is typical in elementary school. It’s often much later that we figure out that, well, nobody really writes that way.

Seriously. Few professional writers consciously think about a topic sentence and a concluding sentence. And they certainly don’t feel constrained by some sort of paragraph formula.

I’m not suggesting we abandon teaching the formal structure of paragraphs to young writers, mind you. In fact, we do exactly that in our early middle school classes at WriteAtHome. Youngsters crave structure and prefer strictly-enforced rules. Writing seems too vast and intimidating otherwise. But rigid paragraph structure is just training wheels. Eventually, you take them off and allow the writers some room to roam.

Some of you moms and teachers are freaking out right now. Sorry — I hate to dishevel your tidy world of writing rules again. It’s just that writing that always conforms to almost any pattern ends up bland, predictable, and monotonous. When you are just getting student writers to feel confident putting words down, we can tolerate bland, predictable, and monotonous, but there’s no reason to stay there indefinitely, right? Once they get the hang of it, pull out your wrench and take those training wheels off. They might run into the curb of chaos or crash into incomprehensibility a couple times, but they will eventually get the hang of it, and then they can really learn to ride…er…write.

So, if we don’t insist on the old topic-sentence paragraph form, how do kids know when to start a new paragraph?

Good question. First, don’t worry too much. It’s not a hard science. Generally, a paragraph should center on a single idea. When there is a shift to a new idea, it’s time for a new paragraph. Of course, this gets tricky in practice. Sometimes ideas merge into one another. Sometimes there are just aspects to a complex idea that should be separated into their own paragraphs. Often it’s hard to tell when one idea is definitively completed and a new one has begun. What then?

Good news: there’s no clear right or wrong to it. In these nuanced situations, go with your instincts. If it feels like it’s time to start a new paragraph, start a new paragraph.

But, like the quote suggests: it’s better to err on the side of shorter paragraphs than long. I’ve never heard a writing teacher complain because a student breaks his work up into too many little paragraphs. It’s almost always the other way around. Students tend to just ramble on and on, page after page, without pausing to indent.

Above all, paragraphs are a kindness to the reader. They make reading less eye-wearying, less mentally taxing. Give your reader (especially your dutiful teacher) a break every now and then. It’s as easy as Enter/Tab.

   *****

Like this article? Please consider sharing it or subscribing to our weekly email update! Post any comments and questions below. Bloggers love comments.

About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Geico car insurance
    Geico car insurance03-22-2017

    I wish to thank you regarding natural feedback which plainly promote choosing new findings. The better possibility to make up rates goes cheapest compare process which gives the cheapest deals for home insurance policy by zip code provided from top rated insurers from the United States.

  2. Duvvada Jagannadham songs
    Duvvada Jagannadham songs03-22-2017

    I will right away grab your rss as I can not find your email subscription link or newsletter service. Do you ave any? Please let me know in order that I could subscribe. Thanks.

  3. state farm insurance quote
    state farm insurance quote03-22-2017

    Thanks for good review that plainly help in getting undiscovered findings. The better feature to receive rates is cheapest comparison tool which provides the best offers for rental insurance using zip code from best insurers in United States.

  4. this link
    this link03-22-2017

    Good – I should certainly pronounce, impressed with your web site. I had no trouble navigating through all tabs and related info ended up being truly simple to do to access. I recently found what I hoped for before you know it in the least. Reasonably unusual. Is likely to appreciate it for those who add forums or something, site theme . a tones way for your client to communicate. Nice task.

  5. sicherheitsunternehmen
    sicherheitsunternehmen03-21-2017

    Incredible! This blog looks just like my old one! It as on a completely different subject but it has pretty much the same page layout and design. Great choice of colors!

  6. progressive insurance quote
    progressive insurance quote03-21-2017

    Thank you for great overlook that truthfully designate obtaining unexplored concepts and definitions. The most preferable feature to make up prices goes free compare which gives the cheapest offers for landlord insurance policies by zip code provided from top rated agents in US.

  7. deck heroes hack tool free download
    deck heroes hack tool free download03-20-2017

    Very informative article post.Really thank you! Much obliged.

  8. matched betting
    matched betting03-20-2017

    I went over this web site and I conceive you have a lot of superb info, saved to my bookmarks (:.

  9. Alternative News
    Alternative News03-20-2017

    I’а†ve recently started a web site, the information you provide on this website has helped me tremendously. Thanks for all of your time & work.

  10. buy app installs
    buy app installs03-19-2017

    Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with a few pics to drive the message home a bit, but instead of that, this is excellent blog. A great read. I’ll certainly be back.

  11. Kockler1050@gmail.com
    Kockler1050@gmail.com03-19-2017

    Great post. Thank you for your time in helping me get educated about this.

  12. personal trainer Pasadena
    personal trainer Pasadena03-18-2017

    Hey, you used to write great, but the last few posts have been kinda boringK I miss your great writings. Past few posts are just a little out of track! come on!

  13. a trip around the world
    a trip around the world03-18-2017

    Hi there would you mind letting me know which web host you’re utilizing? I’ve loaded your blog in 3 completely different web browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot faster then most. Can you suggest a good hosting provider at a reasonable price? Kudos, I appreciate it!

  14. best way to share photos online
    best way to share photos online03-17-2017

    Yeah bookmaking this wasn’t a high risk decision outstanding post! .

  15. travel around the world inc
    travel around the world inc03-17-2017

    Thanks a lot for sharing this with all of us you really know what you’re talking about! Bookmarked. Kindly also visit my website =). We could have a link exchange contract between us!

  16. 20 tourist photos that will make you lose your mind
    20 tourist photos that will make you lose your mind03-17-2017

    you’re in reality a just right webmaster. The web site loading speed is amazing. It kind of feels that you’re doing any distinctive trick. Also, The contents are masterwork. you have performed a fantastic task in this topic!

  17. moto g barato
    moto g barato03-17-2017

    Very good write-up. I definitely love this site. Keep writing!

  18. local leads
    local leads03-17-2017

    wow, awesome post.Much thanks again. Want more.

  19. best around the world trips
    best around the world trips03-17-2017

    Lovely just what I was looking for.Thanks to the author for taking his time on this one.

  20. Mobeltransport Berlin
    Mobeltransport Berlin03-17-2017

    Wonderful site. Lots of helpful info here. I am sending it to a few

  21. a trip around the world bedroom design
    a trip around the world bedroom design03-17-2017

    I conceive this website has some rattling great information for everyone :D . “We rarely think people have good sense unless they agree with us.” by Francois de La Rochefoucauld.

  22. best travel videos 2015
    best travel videos 201503-16-2017

    Magnificent goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you are just extremely wonderful. I really like what you have acquired here, certainly like what you are stating and the way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and you still care for to keep it sensible. I can not wait to read much more from you. This is actually a great site.

  23. europe trip itinerary
    europe trip itinerary03-16-2017

    An impressive share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a little analysis on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast because I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. If possible, as you become expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more details? It is highly helpful for me. Big thumb up for this blog post!

  24. โรงงานผลิตสบู่
    โรงงานผลิตสบู่03-16-2017

    posts from you later on as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get

  25. Home insurance quotes
    Home insurance quotes03-16-2017

    Thanks for understandable information which plainly determined in getting undiscovered definitions. The better feature to receive prices is cheap quotes comparison process which gives the cheapest deals for homeowners insurance against best providers in US.

  26. landlord house s insurance
    landlord house s insurance03-16-2017

    I appreciate for great information that truthfully help on getting unexplored positions. The best feature to apply quotes is cheap compare process that provides the cheapest deals for auto and homeowners insurance policies provided by high ratings agent in United States.

  27. Houses and Property For Sale
    Houses and Property For Sale03-16-2017

    Heya this is kinda of off topic but I was wanting to know if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding expertise so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  28. companies that allow you to work from home
    companies that allow you to work from home03-15-2017

    Magnificent site. Lots of useful info here. I am sending it to a few pals ans also sharing in delicious. And naturally, thanks in your sweat!

  29. TOEIC
    TOEIC03-15-2017

    Nearly all of what you state happens to be supprisingly accurate and it makes me wonder why I hadn’t looked at this in this light previously. Your article truly did switch the light on for me as far as this specific subject matter goes. But there is just one point I am not necessarily too cozy with so whilst I make an effort to reconcile that with the central idea of your point, allow me observe exactly what the rest of your readers have to point out.Nicely done.

  30. flights
    flights03-15-2017

    Enjoyed every bit of your blog.Thanks Again. Great.

  31. cheapest homeowners insurance
    cheapest homeowners insurance03-15-2017

    I wish to thank you for nice feedbacks that frankly designate getting various concepts and definitions. The better feature to make up prices goes low cost quotes comparison process which provides the most wanted deals on renter insurance policy against high ratings companies in USA.

  32. medical jobs
    medical jobs03-15-2017

    Simply want to say your article is as amazing. The clarity for your submit is simply cool and that i could suppose you’re a professional on this subject. Fine together with your permission let me to clutch your RSS feed to stay up to date with drawing close post. Thanks a million and please continue the rewarding work.

  33. apk games
    apk games03-14-2017

    Hello.This post was really interesting, particularly because I was investigating for thoughts on this topic last Thursday.

  34. law of attraction
    law of attraction03-14-2017

    I have read several good stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how much effort you put to create such a excellent informative website.

  35. Low cost auto insurance in illinois
    Low cost auto insurance in illinois03-14-2017

    I wish to say thank you for understandable review which plainly promote checking original findings. The better possibility to get quote that is online compare process that provides the best offers for home owners insurance policy from well known providers from the United States.

  36. http://www.electrichainsaw.com
    http://www.electrichainsaw.com03-13-2017

    Really enjoyed this blog article.Really thank you! Fantastic.

  37. Costco auto insurance quotes
    Costco auto insurance quotes03-13-2017

    I wish to say thank you regarding great feedbacks which directly determined in getting original concepts. The better feature to get prices is free process that provides the most wanted deals on renter insurance policy against best insurers like costco in US.

  38. Low cost auto insurance quotes
    Low cost auto insurance quotes03-12-2017

    F*ckin’ awesome issues here. I’m very satisfied to peer your post. Thank you so much and i am looking forward to touch you. Will you kindly drop me a mail?

  39. Carshield
    Carshield03-10-2017

    Thanks-a-mundo for the blog post.Thanks Again. Want more.

  40. Kuhlschrank gunstig
    Kuhlschrank gunstig03-10-2017

    I think this is a real great blog post.Thanks Again. Awesome.

  41. find targeted emails
    find targeted emails03-08-2017

    You made some clear points there. I looked on the internet for the subject and found most persons will approve with your site.

  42. Global Removalist
    Global Removalist03-08-2017

    You made some decent factors there. I appeared on the web for the difficulty and found most individuals will go along with with your website.

  43. Letting Agents West Bromwich
    Letting Agents West Bromwich03-08-2017

    wow, awesome post.Really looking forward to read more. Much obliged.

  44. www.gmail-sign-up.com
    www.gmail-sign-up.com03-07-2017

    It as actually a great and useful piece of info. I am happy that you simply shared this useful info with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  45. home decorating ideas
    home decorating ideas03-06-2017

    F*ckin’ awesome issues here. I am very happy to see your article. Thanks a lot and i’m taking a look forward to touch you. Will you kindly drop me a mail?

  46. food processor with blender
    food processor with blender03-06-2017

    Some really superb articles on this site, thankyou for contribution.

  47. lovely shez
    lovely shez03-05-2017

    UeUwKl It’а†s in reality a nice and helpful piece of info. I am satisfied that you just shared this helpful info with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  48. lovely shez
    lovely shez03-05-2017

    Pf2ATR Wow, superb blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your site is wonderful, let alone the content!

  49. Florentino Gase
    Florentino Gase03-05-2017

    Hi, Neat post. There’s a problem along with your site in web explorer, would test this… IE nonetheless is the market chief and a big part of folks will omit your fantastic writing due to this problem.

  50. Roberta Gallant
    Roberta Gallant05-18-2013

    Sometimes I have trouble knowing when to start a new paragraph.
    Paragraphing when I write confuses me. What should I do about
    this problem!

  51. Isabella Hodge
    Isabella Hodge11-21-2011

    This is great. In general, I completely identify with the reader who feels intimidated by a book with long paragraph after long paragraph. Breaking up pages into more “bite sized” portions definitely makes for more approachable and easy reading. Thanks for sharing! :)

  52. Steve
    Steve11-21-2011

    Liberating!

  1. xm95tkdc4t34xkc5t43753vv303-22-17
  2. szybka pozyczka03-22-17
  3. sex problem03-22-17
  4. adult toys03-22-17
  5. Lia Pleasure O03-21-17
  6. male vacuum pump03-21-17
  7. sex toy review03-21-17
  8. Google03-19-17
  9. Google03-15-17

Leave a Reply

If you like a post, please take a second to click "like," and comment as often as you like.
We promise not to correct your grammar!