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Longer vs. Shorter paragraphs

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  #1  
Old 05-26-2012, 08:53 PM
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Default Longer vs. Shorter paragraphs


Hi there,

I've recently had someone point out to me that I tend to write with shorter paragraphs as opposed to longer ones, ending the paragraph and beginning another when the reader least expects it.

He told me it wasn't disruptive to the flow or hard to read or follow, but that it was unique and that it made the reading interesting; however, he told me that some publishers might not look at it the same way. He said that they might think of it as wasting page space and that it might be a good idea to work on writing longer paragraphs.

So, is he right? How much of a concern is this? Writing shorter paragraphs is natural for me. I don't question it I just write it. Is there something wrong with this?

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Old 05-27-2012, 01:33 AM
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I don't think there is a set rule on paragraph length. It sounds like the whole "how long is a chapter" argument, only with a different name.

The length of my own paragraphs varies. I usually start a new one if the "topic" changes. (Sorry, I can't think of another word for paragraph content--guess paragraph content would have worked).

You might want to check with multiple people before deciding if you should change your paragraph style. If they are all of the consensus that it doesn't make your story feel choppy, I wouldn't worry about it.
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  #3  
Old 05-27-2012, 06:47 AM
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Tell him he's an idiot.
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Old 05-27-2012, 08:07 AM
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I dunno.... How long is the perfect book?
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Old 05-27-2012, 09:35 AM
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If you write short paragraphs, write short paragraphs. The only time you should worry about it is if they make your stories read like shit.

Your idiot friend doesn't seem to think so, so that might be an indicator for you.

As for publishers looking down on it? I've never heard that one before. Sounds like another myth made up by people trying to tell others how to write.
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  #6  
Old 05-27-2012, 01:47 PM
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Thanks so much for all of the feedback, guys. I really appreciate it. I feel better now. I had never heard it either, but I wanted to be sure I got some other opinions.

Thanks again!
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  #7  
Old 06-30-2012, 09:43 AM
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I'm continually dumbfounded that people dream these things up and pass them on like gospel.
Obviously no publisher told him that. (Unless he'd pissed them off and they wanted a subtle revenge)
So where did it come from? Who first made that up and told somebody.

This is probably worth a paper for somebody.
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Old 06-30-2012, 11:16 AM
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Switch paragraphs when it feels right. Who cares if they're short or long? So long as it holds the reader's attention, hey. Whatever. And that's the thing, don't worry about the length of the paragraph. As Candra says above, if it makes your narrative reads like shit, then you worry about it.
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Old 06-30-2012, 05:39 PM
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I've read paragraphs that are only one sentence, and paragraphs that are several pages long. So I'd say it's probably not too set in stone.
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Old 06-30-2012, 06:43 PM
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Variety is the spice of life. I think more than focusing on making all your paragraphs longer or all of them shorter, you should focus on mixing it up. Reading something composed of lots and lots of long paragraphs gets very tiring. By the same token, I hate blog writers who never have a paragraph longer than two sentences and just fill the page with white space. It looks cheap. But writing a longer paragraph followed by a one-sentence paragraph? Oh, it's mucho effective. The reader can't help but take notice.

So maybe it's worth considering your friend's advice. I don't think a paragraph needs to be any particular length. Could be one sentence, could be twenty. Could be one word. But I definitely prefer seeing a mixture of long and short.

In the end, though, just go by instinct.
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Old 06-30-2012, 07:05 PM
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Has he heard of alternating paragraph structure? Sometimes, it's just a few words. He sounds like a jealous moron. I bet it's good. Who tells you your book can be a waste of space? Tell him HE'S a waste of space.
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Old 06-30-2012, 07:14 PM
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One thing I'll point out here. Not to beat a dead, smelly horse, but as something to keep in mind when you run into these pronouncements.'

People--especially people with no experience or good sense--who like to cook up these rules and dire warnings for writers learn that if they just say them people snicker.
So they learn to say that editors or agents will reject over it.
Thus making their moronic point seem more valid and important, without having to take any responsibility for it or defend it.
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  #13  
Old 06-30-2012, 07:21 PM
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Yeah. Ethos. Makes them sound more credible if editors agree with them, in their logic anyways. If anyone tells you what an editor will think, they're wrong.
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Old 06-30-2012, 09:26 PM
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Even if the one who tells you is an editor. :-)
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Old 06-30-2012, 10:06 PM
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Editors are people. Just like any other group of people, they will have contradictory opinions.
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  #16  
Old 06-30-2012, 10:57 PM
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But come on, who tells you short paragraphs are a waste of space? They're in a LOT of the greats.
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Old 07-01-2012, 02:31 AM
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I have studied this a lot, and spent a lot of time researching it.

My findings, broadly, are that long paragraphs tend to have more words in them than short paragraphs.
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Old 07-01-2012, 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Mike C View Post
I have studied this a lot, and spent a lot of time researching it.

My findings, broadly, are that long paragraphs tend to have more words in them than short paragraphs.
Mike
Brilliant, I wish I had thought of it.
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Old 07-02-2012, 06:41 PM
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Can you cite an references or links to back up that statement, Mike?
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  #20  
Old 07-02-2012, 08:49 PM
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I think it's just a vague theory. You can't really put his wild notions into practice. Maybe we need a testing lab, where we can combine theory, which doesn't work and we know why, and practice, where everything works and we don't know why. Thus we will have two variables: long and short paragraphs. And we'll stack up theory and practice to form nothing that works and we don't know why! I've given this a lot of thought guys.
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Old 07-02-2012, 09:08 PM
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Exhibit A: The Short Paragraph:

This is a short paragraph.

Exhibit B: The Long Paragraph:

This is a long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long paragraph.



The second one appears to have more words. Nothing conclusive, to be sure, but it's a start I think. What say you guys?
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  #22  
Old 07-02-2012, 10:05 PM
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Ha! "Appears to be"!

In other words, one of those sneaky liberal tricks like the THEORY of evolution.

I suspected as much.
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  #23  
Old 07-03-2012, 01:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Lin View Post
Can you cite an references or links to back up that statement, Mike?
Uh... I think I saw it in a book once.
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  #24  
Old 07-03-2012, 01:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Jinjonator View Post
Exhibit A: The Short Paragraph:

This is a short paragraph.

Exhibit B: The Long Paragraph:

This is a long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long paragraph.



The second one appears to have more words. Nothing conclusive, to be sure, but it's a start I think. What say you guys?
But what if I do this?

This is a long paragraph.

This is a short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short short paragraph.

What now, mister fancypants?

The long paragpaph has a lot less words.
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Old 07-03-2012, 01:34 AM
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I have a new theory. Nobody shoot me, ok, it's only a theory.

Paragraphs often have words in them, often - but not always - more than one.
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  #26  
Old 07-03-2012, 01:43 AM
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I can't find a single distortion in his logic. I really tried to find something guys.
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  #27  
Old 07-03-2012, 12:30 PM
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OK, now you're stepping over into heresy Mike.
And probably sacrilege
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  #28  
Old 07-03-2012, 11:19 PM
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Originally Posted by jadziab View Post
Writing shorter paragraphs is natural for me. I don't question it I just write it. Is there something wrong with this?
Me too. It feels right to me. Though perhaps I have a tendency to over do it, I think paragraph breaks and short paragraphs can be very effective.

I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who likes to write that way.
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  #29  
Old 07-04-2012, 12:43 AM
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New prototype paragraphs:

A: The long and short paragraph.


B: The longest paragraph.


C: The shortest paragraph.


Our researchers are still working on it.
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  #30  
Old 07-11-2012, 09:51 AM
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I think any writer should create a paragraph that fits their work. There are defiantly bad ways to create paragraphs, but length has nothing to do with it. As long as your paragraph does what it needs to do then it is a good length
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