We’ve been taught that a paragraph is made of two or three sentences. We’ve also been taught that we should avoid using an exclamation point, a question mark, or an ellipsis. But, after a lot of experimentation, the experts conclude that these rules aren’t set in stone. They are just guidelines, not laws, and you can break them quite easily.
How many words in a sentence is appropriate depends on the context of the paragraph (what the sentence is about), your writing style, and the reader (who you are writing to and how they read).
So, how do you know how many words a paragraph should have?
There are two ways to find the answer.
- One is to count the words. The other is to count the lines.
- For the first method, you just count the number of words.
For the second method, start with a paragraph. Then count the number of lines in the paragraph, and divide that by the number of words.
But remember that in the academic world, everything is done by the book and the creative world where you can break/change any rules you like. Understanding the difference between these two poles isn’t always easy.
You must understand that casual or creative writing and academic writing are two different genres; we can’t apply one’s rules to the other.
The same goes for paragraphs and vocab – if you stuff a blog post with long paragraphs, the reader might bounce back, leaving your site in a bad light.
Whether you’re compiling a blog post or a college essay, these simple paragraph rules will surely kick your content up a notch.
Read on to know the ideal paragraph length for any content!
What is the Ideal Word Count in a Paragraph?
Writing is about conveying an idea and adding to the reader’s knowledge, not about following rules all the time. If you have a short and precise idea, don’t be afraid of writing a 1-2 sentence-long paragraph.
And if you’re conveying an idea that needs thorough explanation paired with facts and supportive statements, you’re free to exceed the ideal 100-200 words limit. Don’t break the paragraph abruptly because that will affect your content’s flow. Instead, emphasize quality over quantity and don’t deliver your thoughts in the same section, even if it gets long.
But also remember that when you confiscate different ideas into one paragraph, it looks more like verbal vomit instead of valuable content.
How long is a Paragraph in Different Types of Content?
The answer to this question depends on the type of content you’re writing. For example, is it a college essay, a blog, or a website copy?
Essay paragraphs should be 7-8 sentences long because you cannot leave the reader with a vague idea. Try and follow the topic-support-conclusion method in essay paragraphs. But remember that you shouldn’t force this structure. Instead, it should naturally flow with your content.
Next up, we have blog posts. A blog post is supposed to deliver your ideas and thoughts in a simple and organized way without tiring the reader. That’s why it’s better to keep blog paras no longer than 3-4 sentences long for better readability.
The third significant content type is copywriting. Now that’s where you can break all the rules and write however you want.
You can even write two-word sentences in copywriting, so that’ll give you an idea!
Is the Paragraph Length Same for Academic and Creative Writing?
Academic writing follows specific guidelines to support scientific researches and claims. For example, if we don’t follow the ideal paragraph length or word limit, an academic paper can lose its significance. Also, it doesn’t make sense to play with rules when your grades depend on them.
On the flip side, the internet content doesn’t stick to any rules. We often see updated SEO rules and content requirements for modern-day creative content. But, you’re allowed to think differently and express those ideas via words.
You should use easy vocabulary and an easy-to-follow structure in creative writing to keep your reader hooked.
Here’s a rule-of-thumb:
Too long paragraphs on a website, and the reader might bounce back. Too short sections in an academic paper, and your professor will think you’re trying to be funny when you shouldn’t.
So, learn the balance!
Now that we understand the ideal paragraph length for different platforms, let’s look at their advantages for better clarity.
Advantages of Long Paragraphs
The internet might suggest you write short and crisp sentences, but that doesn’t mean comprehensive paragraphs are a no-no. On the contrary, most of our academic (and some creative) work is better off with detailed paras than one-liners.
Here are some benefits of long paragraphs you should know:
A paragraph is a unit of sentences that collectively represent one idea. You start with a hook statement, write 3-6 lines to support it, and finish a clear note. When someone starts reading your essay/paper/post from anywhere in the middle, they’ll quickly understand your topic. Long paragraphs help you deliver well-structured content that portrays your thoughts from start to finish without distraction.
A good writer doesn’t abruptly break the content into parts just for the sake of it. For example, if you’re explaining a comprehensive idea, don’t try to squeeze it into shorter passages. Instead, write detailed paragraphs that thoroughly support your claims. This method adds an uninterrupted flow into your work, which is an excellent readability-boosting factor.
When you’re clear about an idea, conveying it in longer paragraphs is easier than splitting it into smaller chunks. You start with a clear mind and don’t need breaks to make it easier. Sticking to easier words is better than shorter lines. Be sure to structure your content to support the idea and offer value to the reader instead of following strict grammar rules.
Longer paragraphs build authority in your content. They keep a reader hooked and offer incredible value, which eventually builds your authority. A good writer takes the reader on a journey where his words explain everything in detail, with no place for ambiguity.
If you write on topics that need authority and credibility, be sure to structure longer paragraphs for good word flow.
Advantages of Short Paragraphs
Most people like writing and reading short paragraphs unless the content format says otherwise. The two-three sentences long paragraphs don’t bore the reader, and they keep scrolling down to learn more (which, by the way, also boosts your SEO ranking).
But if you aren’t convinced why small paras should be your choice, here are some points to help you:
First things first, hard-to-read content makes the reader scratch their head and open thesaurus quite frequently.
On the other hand, easy, well-written words keep the reader interested in the idea you’re conveying. Any writer in today’s world should prefer easy writing to ensure the reader doesn’t bounce back.
Announcement sentences, questions, and figures don’t deserve to get lost between big blocks of text. Instead, it would be best if you wrote them separately to grab the readers’ attention.
Here’s a quick example:
Did I tell you that my course is 50% off till 12 pm tomorrow?
If I had written this line between a content block, the reader might miss it, and I don’t want that to happen. On the flip side, one-liners help skimmers understand the content in one go.
Don’t expect your readers to read anything they land on. Most people just scan the page first and then decide if they want to spend more time on the page.
Therefore, it is good to write small paras to help a reader understand your ideas better.
Less Information to Filter
Most people don’t like jargon and overcrowded text. Small paragraphs allow you to break complex information into more manageable bits and keep a reader from getting overwhelmed.
Also, white space between content boxes increases its scannability, and a visitor thinks he isn’t on a research paper.
Example of Short Paragraph
Here’s an example of a short paragraph:
“Is it necessary to get COVID-19 vaccine? Of course, because COVID-19 vaccines are based in deep scientific knowledge and medical practice. These vaccines are not experimental. Instead, they have gone through clinical trials and approved for use after extensive testing for efficacy and patient safety.”
How Does Paragraph Length Impact the Core Content?
Why does paragraph length matter in writing? Can’t we keep adding words without giving a dime about its structure? We certainly cannot. We should respect some grammar rules, and an optimized paragraph length is one of the best practices to follow.
Crisp paragraphs can make any content more readable because now the reader has easier tidbits to absorb. For example, a reader lands on a webpage and sees easy language and short paras. In that case, they don’t jump back because they feel trapped.
Screen exhaustion is a real thing, and people lose attention in online reading faster than you think. Therefore, you should prioritize digestible content chunks to keep the visitors’ focus intact.
Sticking to the central content idea is more straightforward when the writing seems understandable. There’s also a lower error margin in precise paragraphs.
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Summing Up: Paragraph Length
The ideal length of a paragraph depends on the content type, the platform you’re writing for, and the target audience.
If you’re writing academic content or an authoritative page, you can use well-structured long paragraphs. Doing so adds to the readers’ knowledge instead of breaking the flow.
On the other hand, smaller paragraphs sit perfectly well with creative and casual writing because that’s where your target audience is flexible. You can choose any paragraph format that you deem suitable.
By Anne Matea
With a Master’s degree in Management and Communication in Business and over two decades of experience writing content for the digital world, Anne loves to play with words and create content that is fun and engaging.
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