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Knowing when and why to use paragraph breaks is something that most of us were taught at school and, if it doesn’t come to us instinctively, is frequently got wrong. However, it is a key skill to ensure your posts are easy to follow and retain your readers through till the end. So if your instincts aren’t working well, what should you do?

Traditional advice to journalists was to write stories in such as way that they carry on making sense each time you slice a sentence off the end of the story. This was suited to the pre-electronic era where stories had to fit the size of the paper, but it often wasn’t known at the time of writing exactly what the size of that space would be. Moreover, the manual manipulation of text meant that any editing other than trimming words from the end could be slow and cumbersome.

This writing style is still frequently used and still has many merits – such as by catering for both the busy reader, who just reads the first part of the story, and also the more interested reader, who reads on and gets further detail.

It isn’t that well suited to online writing, though, both because usually there isn’t the same constraint on the number of words and also because the increasing trend towards conveying messages via telling stories means you cannot structure posts in the same way. The narrative arrangement of a story is not amenable to editing away from the bottom up.

The traditional way of writing is, however, an approach that still works well within paragraphs. The first sentence of the paragraph is the main point, with the other sentences then clarifying, substantiating or expanding as needed. When you get on to a new point, it’s time for a new paragraph.

So when you’re done, there are two checks for your paragraph structure. First, the post should still make sense even if you only read the first sentence of each paragraph. Second, you should be able to in turn chop off the last sentence of any paragraph (that is more than one sentence long) and for the post still to flow.

Finally, remember that as with all rules about writing, all rules are there for the breaking on that occasional moment of genius.


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About the author 


I’m Donny. I can sum myself up with four simple ways. Online Entrepreneur. Author. Investor. World Traveler

  1. Checking sentences in paragraphs is a really good exercise.

    Could be painful too.

    Maybe even boring… but I suspect if I spend an afternoon once a month going through a half dozen posts very carefully as suggested here, it will improve my writing quite a bit.

  2. No problem your post was good… only that we should remember paragraphs AND grammar go together! I see you are British… that grammatical construction is frequently used by many Brits I have noticed and among the upper classes is even in vogue now of sorts!

  3. Harrison: fair point – especially as it is my first language πŸ™‚ There is a point about grammar evolving over time and becoming more colloquial, though if I wrote that sentence again I would change it.

  4. I think the writing style of the internet comes in many shapes and sizes…

    Although the traditional style works very well, I think it really depends on what you’re writing about, and whether it really needs to be in a formal layout.

    As long as it is easy to read, and the layout fits what you’re writing about then that’s all good for the reader πŸ™‚

    Speak soon,


  5. These are good tips to help me write a better blog post in the future. I will definately bookmark this post and come back to it when I write more blogs. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Another important thing about writing online is to keep the paragraphs fairly short. Long paragraphs are daunting to readers — and may even cause them to leave without reading anything.

  7. Perhaps English is not your native language but your grammar is not very good. An example:

    “Knowing when and why to use paragraph breaks is something that most of us were taught at school and, if it doesnÒ€ℒt come to us instinctively, is frequently got wrong.”

    “is frequently got wrong” is not correct grammar.

  8. Thanks for the positive feedback.

    I like one sentence paragraphs for emphasis, though there can be a tendency to overdo these.

    In terms of more general systel (e.g. essay style or not), I think it also depends on what suits your own personal preferences and style. To some degree, doing what suits yourself is going to work better than doing what in theory is better but doesn’t suit your own preferences and instincts.

    Oh, and of course the geniuses frequently break all the rules! (JK Galbraith’s disregard for commas is a great example – and the text is superbly readable regardless.)

  9. Good Guest Post. I agree with all of the points made above. The Paragraph before “Read More” or “Read the rest of this entry” type link is definitely important. This makes a reader decide whether they read the post or just go away.

    It is also important to add Read More links at each blog posts in purpose of increasing pageview and adsense impressions.

  10. Another thing to consider when write a post is, how to make first pharagraph/words that appear before “read more” link attracting as possible.
    I’m learning how to do that in this blog πŸ˜€

  11. How do you feel about once sentence paragraphs for emphasis?

    When I first started blogging, I noticed I wrote my blog the same way I wrote for college (both grammar and format). The more successful blogs I read, the more I’ve learned about formatting and breaking content up into palatable paragraphs.

    Now I just need to learn to comment that way πŸ˜‰

  12. I believe there is a typo in this article: “Traditional advice to journalists was to write stories in such as way that they carry on making sense each time you slice a sentence off the end of the story.”

  13. You bet, that article is very pretty. The structure of a blog post is also important, if write article only one paragraph, it will be hard for people to read. I’d like to use several paragraph in a post. Usuallly every three to ten sentense per paragraph, it makes my readers easily to read.

  14. Hi there,
    Really impressed with your writing style of the post.But some people still using traditional style it seems that they are writing the post for a news paper or for a paper magazine.
    I think we should use the writing style which we had learned from our school teacher.I mean essay writing style.
    What would you say?

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