How to Write a Paragraph in 2020 (Yes, the Rules Have Changed)

how to write a paragraph

Writing is tricky.

The same piece of content that earns you an A+ on your midterm would be marked as spam or deleted from a blog editor’s inbox.

Why is that?

Well, one reason is what constitutes a good paragraph differs from medium to medium.

How to write a paragraph for your college professor is different than writing a paragraph for a popular blog.

The good news?

In this post, you’ll learn the differences. We’ll go over paragraph writing for the digital age, and we’ll touch on the writing skills and basics you need to know for school, magazines, and such.

But first, let’s look at why the rules for paragraph structure have changed…

Why Paragraph Writing Changed in the Digital Age

The main reason for the paragraph’s evolution is the way we consume media.

When we’re online, an onslaught of ads, pop-up notifications, cat videos, and vapid celebrity gossip are all competing for our attention.

As a result, writers have had to adapt.

Shorter paragraphs. More transition words and phrases. Variation in rhythm.

Consider the drastic differences between this teacher-pleasing page from Habits of a Happy Brain (affiliate link) and this online article by Tomas Laurinaricius reviewing the same book:

Contrast Paragraphs in a book vs. online article.

In short:

When we open a book or magazine, we’re usually at home or somewhere quiet. We’ll set aside some time and give it our full attention.

But online, we scan content and decide, within seconds, whether to stay or go.

To survive in digital media, writers have to account for shorter attention spans and increased competition.

So, now that we understand the why, let’s look at the how.

The Rules of the 2020 Paragraph

Rule #1. In Digital Media, Short Paragraphs are Mandatory


Online, one of the easiest ways to instantly turn off your audience is to present them with a big wall of text that has few breaks and little white space.

We have adapted to expect and prefer paragraphs that are short because they look and feel easier to read. Short paragraphs are easier to scan, and they allow readers to consume the article in bite-sized chunks, which helps maintain their focus.

Consider, for example, the ease with which you can read the introduction to this article by Mel Wicks:

Easy to read introductions

Yes, Mel Wicks uses empathetic language and easy-to-read prose, which no doubt enhances her clarity. But you can’t ignore the sense you get just by glancing at her article that it will be an easy read.

This is the effect short paragraphs have on readers.

In the above article, Mel’s introduction has ten paragraphs. The longest paragraph is 42 words, and seven of them have only 12 words or less.

So, what’s the new standard? How long is a paragraph in 2020?

Well, in digital media your average paragraph should be between two and four lines. You can go over and under — some paragraphs are just one powerful word long — but stay close to that average and you should be fine.

Paragraph Length in Print Media (Or, How Many Sentences are in a Paragraph?)

The length of paragraphs in school papers, books, magazines, and other print media is a bit larger.

How much larger?

It’s no longer the hard-and-fast rule it used to be, but writing paragraphs of three-to-five sentences remains the standard practice.

Rule #2. Rhythm Dictates the Next Paragraph


Rhythm is the new arbiter of words. It determines where paragraphs end and where new ones begin.

Rhythm in writing is hard to teach. It’s not an exact science and doesn’t follow hard rules.

The more experienced you become as a writer, the more you’ll develop your rhythm. But in the meantime, you can follow these basic guidelines for when to start a new paragraph:

1. Variation

While you want to keep your paragraphs short in digital media, every paragraph doesn’t have to be (or need to be) short.

In fact, switching between short and long paragraphs will make your writing sing.

Here are a few noteworthy rules of thumb. You don’t have to follow these perfectly, but they’re worth remembering:

  • If you just wrote one or two paragraphs that are four lines or more, shorten the next few paragraphs.
  • If you just wrote one or two paragraphs that are only one line, lengthen your next few paragraphs.
  • And if you just wrote three to four paragraphs of similar length, shorten or lengthen your next paragraph.

Too many same-sized paragraphs in a row will bore your reader. It doesn’t matter if it’s too many small paragraphs or too many long paragraphs.

Consider this excerpt from Jon Morrow’s post on earning passive income online:

Balance short and long paragraphs.

See how he perfectly balances between short and long paragraphs?

Now imagine if the same excerpt was structured this way:

The reason I put “passive income” in quotes is I think the term is a little misleading.

Almost nothing is totally passive.

While you may not personally be doing any work to receive the money, someone is.

And there’s usually at least a little bit of management overhead.

For instance, I’ve gone on record saying this blog averages over $100,000 per month.

From that total, about $60,000 of it is technically “passive income.”

Even though all of these paragraphs are short, this text feels monotonous.

Too many short paragraphs make a reader feel like they’re on a rollercoaster ride with no destination — they’re moving fast but they quickly get confused about where they’re going.

Ultimately, you want to guide your reader. And the only way to do that effectively is to recognize when your reader needs a few short paragraphs, a long one, or a bit of both.

Paragraph Variation in Print Media

Varying the length of your paragraphs in school papers, magazine articles, and books isn’t a commonly-discussed writing method, but it’s good practice.

Whether it’s your teacher or professor, a magazine subscriber, or a bookworm; every reader appreciates variation. Try to mix up the length of your paragraphs.

It’s a small change that can have a big impact.

2. Topic

While topic was once the ultimate indicator of paragraph change, it is now one of many. Topic is still critical for clarity. If you change paragraphs at a topically awkward time, the split disturbs the reader.

Take, for example, this excerpt from Liz Longacre’s article:

Blogging is a battle.

A war to get your ideas the attention they deserve.

Your enemy? The dizzying array of online distractions that devour your readers.

This battle is not for the faint of heart.

There are so many learning curves. Plugins you’ll need to install. Social networks you’ll need to employ. Marketing techniques you’ll need to try.

Imagine these paragraphs were structured like this instead …

Blogging is a battle.

A war to get your ideas the attention they deserve.

Your enemy? The dizzying array of online distractions that devour your readers.

This battle is not for the faint of heart. There are so many learning curves.

Plugins you’ll need to install. Social networks you’ll need to employ. Marketing techniques you’ll need to try.

Notice the difference in how you read the original paragraph versus the variation.

In the original, the last paragraph tactfully emphasizes the difficulty of learning how to start a blog. But in the variation, you take a mental pause between “There are so many learning curves” and “Plugins you’ll need to install.”

And it feels off, doesn’t it?

The last three sentences are examples of learning curves, which means they are topically linked to the phrase introducing them (“There are so many learning curves”).

In digital media, readers still expect topics will — for the most part — stick with each other.

Paragraph Topics in Schools, Colleges, and Universities

Topics play an even more important role in print media; specifically, in academia where each paragraph has an introduction and conclusion.

In school, we’re taught to use the following paragraph structure:

  1. Topic sentence of the paragraph (the overarching idea of the paragraph);
  2. Supporting sentences that provide detail to support the paragraph’s idea;
  3. Concluding sentence to repeat and/or reinforce the topic sentence.

Here’s how it looks in practice:

Pizza is the world’s most versatile food. If you hate vegetables, you can get pizza overflowing with different meats. If you’re a vegetarian, you can get pizza with onions and peppers. And if you’re daring (and a little crazy), you can get pizza with anchovies and pineapples. Name the topping, and you can probably put it on a pizza.

The first sentence (topic sentence) tells the reader what to expect in the paragraph. The rest of the paragraph (the supporting sentences) support the topic sentence by providing additional information. And the last sentence (the concluding sentence) wraps the paragraph up in a bow by mirroring the topic sentence.

3. Emphasis

Short paragraphs naturally add emphasis.

They can be used to highlight ideas you want the reader to take note of, but they can also be used for dramatic effect.

For example, check out Jon’s introduction to How to Start a Blog in 2020 (+ Resources on EVERYTHING!):

What if I told you there’s a new strategy for how to start a blog and make money, that’s 20X faster, requires no software or technical expertise, and costs absolutely nothing up front? You’d think there must be some hidden catch, right?

But there’s not. It’s totally real.

Jon’s introduction asks the reader a question with a long paragraph. And then, for emphasis, he adds: “But there’s not. It’s totally real.”

This paragraph conveys a dramatic turn of events. The shortness of the paragraph emphasizes this.

The longer paragraph preps the reader for the punch, and the short paragraph brings it home.

You don’t always have to go from a long paragraph to a short paragraph to create emphasis. You can also use a gradual decline in word count and finish with your main point. This builds the reader up to the punchline.

Here’s another example, taken from The Brutally Honest Guide To Being Brutally Honest.

The author, Josh Tucker, decreases wordcount over three relatively short paragraphs to bring attention to his final sentence: “How you end the discussion can make all the difference.”

Use paragraph length as a tool in writing.

Think of paragraph length in the same way you think about the rest of your writing. Your word choice, sentence length, and paragraph structure all have a massive impact on what your article communicates.

Paragraph Emphasis in Print Media

The need to emphasize points in your content isn’t just for digital media. It’s great for academia and print media too.

Ultimately, paragraph emphasis is up to the creativity of the writer. Paragraph length is simply one tool at your disposal.

Another tool is italicizing or underline words in your content. Just be sure not to overdo it.

If you use too many italics or underlines, they can overwhelm your readers. Plus, they’ll eventually lose effectiveness.

Writing a Paragraph Readers Will Love Isn’t Hard

Not anymore, anyway.

Despite the difficulty in grabbing the attention of today’s digital readers, you now know how to turn visitors into content absorbers by crafting easy-to-read paragraphs — paragraphs that are short, rhythmic, and varied.

And, you now know a few pointers for what it takes to craft content teachers, professors, and editors in print media will adore.

Know your audience, and know how paragraphs should be constructed for said audience.

Do that and you’re golden.

Readers will appreciate your courteous writing and — dare I say? — they’ll keep coming back for more.

About the Author: World-traveler, father, husband, marketer, writer, and self-development nerd, Mike Blankenship is the owner of Get Your Gusto Back, a platform dedicated to helping men reignite their passion and fervor for life.

118 thoughts on “How to Write a Paragraph in 2020 (Yes, the Rules Have Changed)”

  1. Thanks Mike!

    The rules have really changed. But it’s disheartening many bloggers remain stagnant to the old ways.

    Once more, thank you and welcome on board.

    Enjoy the comments.

    1. Thank you, Faj!

      That’s the truth. I’m always bummed to see online articles with blocky formatting. Here’s to hoping the future includes more white space 😉

      Thanks again!

  2. Hi Mike,

    Yes, the rules have changed….You have written a perfect article for writers like us who still follow the old style of writing…..I think the paragraph don’t exist in the new style of writing articles…blog post on this website are best example….thanks for sharing this..!!!

    1. You’re very welcome, Arvind!

      I agree. Smartblogger does do quite a phenomenal job of following these rules. And so they make for some great examples.

      Il glad the article helped you!

  3. Thanks Mike. Remembered my school English teacher when you were discussing about long paragraphs 🙂

    I totally agree with you. Even I prefer reading short paras compared to long ones.

    But I actually get confused on when to start a new para. I think as I write more I will get habituated to it.

    Thanks again for sharing such a beautiful article.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Krishna!

      You absolutely will. Feel free to play around with when to change paragraphs and eventually you’ll find a pattern that works for you! There’s no better teacher than practice. Keep it up 🙂

  4. Hi Mike,
    Thank you for a great article.
    I spent 4 years as a bulletin producer / sub-editor at a television station. We used exactly the same techniques without quite realizing it. When you have to fit all your info into 90 seconds you tend to develop new techniques.
    I must also thank you for settling a domestic dispute. My wife, a Dickens officianado, is always saying my paragraphs are too short and should adhere to the topic rule. I’ll be printing this article out and nailing it to the fridge!
    Thanks again – really enjoyed it!

    1. Ha! Thanks, Rob.

      This comment just gave me a good chuckle. Here’s Mike, writer of articles and resolver of marital disputes.

      Has a nice ring to it, huh? 😉

      Too funny.

      But seriously, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I had a blast putting it together. Writing and language both change without us knowing it because they are so woven into culture and culture is constantly changing.

      Hopefully we’ll be ready for any future changes.

      Thanks for the comment and the good laugh 🙂

  5. Writing for the Web is a course that I have taken to understand the way readers read or rather scan. This is on point. It serves as a reminder for those who already know and as new knowledge for those who don’t know. The pictures really do a good job. Thanks, Mike!

  6. Changing boring paragraphs to new online standard paragraphs give me 10% extra boost in traffic in 30 days.
    Whenever I saw paragraph with 150 or 200 words on any website, I lost focus and interest in that website.
    BTW great article with practical tips and examples.

    1. Wow!

      I know that short paragraphs are better when it comes to online writing but that boost in traffic is incredible!

      I also lose focus with long paragraphs, so I can totally relate to that.

      Thanks for the kudos 🙂

  7. My reading habits have shifted so much.

    It’d be great if print authors followed these rules, too!

    Wordy sentences. Poor use of punctuation.
    This type of writing is, indeed, a bore and a chore.

    Respect your readers – online or off.
    Keep it flowing, varied and use lots of white space.

    Please!

    1. Whew, Takh!

      You’re preaching to the choir! I LOVE IT!

      My hope is that in-print publications start to follow this pattern as well. I’ve definitely noticed some minor differences in fiction books and nonfiction books, but they’re mostly in regard to how sentences are structured (lots of short choppy sentences and fragments are now okay).

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment! 🙂

  8. Fantastic article Mike.

    Using a screen recording app to see how people read your content is eye-opening.

    HotJar is great choice for this.

  9. Got a great insight on paragraphs.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Often paragraph rules are overlooked and old fashioned rules are implemented.
    Thanks for updating us with the post

  10. This is really an eye opener to me.
    This type of paragraph creation is really a new concept to me.
    Yes, surely that really pull the attention of the readers. the examples you mentioned is really worth notable and followable.
    Thanks for telling it out with connected links and screen shots etc.
    Keep writing.
    Keep sharing.
    May you have a great time of sharing ahead.
    Best Regards.
    ~ Philip

  11. I am a massive fan of short paragraphs Mike, post-wise. Comments not so much LOL.

    I do dig writing 3-4 or more 1 sentence paragraph lead ins to my blog posts. Short. Punchy. Then I stretch out paragraphs a little bit but rarely go beyond 3-4 sentences before I start a new paragraph. Readers enjoy posts on their phones and tablets. Gotta be scannable for folks to stick around and read on a mobile device.

    Even if I read a post on my Chromebook I still need a scannable offering. Time saver, as it helps me discern key points swiftly. Fab post dude.

    1. Ha! Thanks for the kudos, Ryan!

      I’m the same way. Long paragraphs drive me crazy (over 4 sentences usually). I much prefer the scannable versions.

      Thanks for reading and commenting! It means a ton. 🙂

  12. You’ve made some interesting points, Mike.

    I agree that for today’s increasingly digital media, a variation in paragraph length can lead to a more dynamic reading experience, but this is also due to the parameters of the media on which the work is being published. As a graphic designer, I can say that dense paragraphs spread over the entire length of a site is a visual nightmare, and why most people are prone to hit the “enter” button more frequently when writing posts, emails, etc. As digital media is leaning towards mobile use more and more, the need for more paragraph breaks increases.

    However, I hope this doesn’t encourage writers to decrease the amount of content they create in order to cater to their audience. I’m only in my twenties, but I’m already frustrated when I read a “professional” news article that sounds like it was written by, well, a twenty-something-year-old. The lack of eloquent writing despite these changes will only acclimatize people to such standards, and may even discourage people from returning to long format works still common to print media.

  13. Thanks for the thoughtful response, Amy!

    I totally see where you’re coming from. If something needs to be said, I also hope that writers don’t leave it unsaid in an attempt to cut length.

    As writers, we hnow have the challenge of saying what we have to say as quickly as we can while keeping all of the necessary components. This is not easy.

    But it’s the world we live in.

    Thanks again for reading! 🙂

  14. Thought I knew everything this post was discussing but I learned about rhythm. That’s a mistake I was making.

    I overdo the one sentence paragraphs.

    One interesting thing I noticed with some readers is when they don’t understand what the writer is doing, their default reaction is disparagement. “LOL take some writing lessons, loser!” On the other hand, I’ve had experienced bloggers compliment me.

    1. Fantastic! Thanks for reading and commenting, Nabeel!

      I’m glad you learned something from this article. 🙂

      And that’s is an interesting point. I think writers in general are inscrcure creatures and like to look for reasons that their writing is better than someone else’s writing (I’m not guilty of this than I’d like to admit).

  15. Thank you very much for this article Mike. It is very helpful and I will definitely will take some actionable tips from it. But all these ideas can be used in short articles too?

    Thanks

  16. Hey Mike,
    I really admire the valuable information you have been able to share us through this post on how to write a paragraph in 2017. Thanks for such post and please keep it up.

  17. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the very informative post! My favorite part was when you mentioned the need to draw your readers in with a catchy introduction using the article from Carrot.

    From my experience, having readers pulled in immediately is a must, and will keep them reading and coming back for more. In a well-written and engaging post, you definitely want people to be hooked from the start.

    Thanks again,

    Jesse

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Jesse!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

      Hooking the reader in the beginning is a must if you want them to read your article. If one thing stuck with you, I’m glad it was that 🙂

  18. One of the best writing lessons I’ve seen, Mike. Thanks for laying it out. A key part you covered is attention span, or lack of same, along with a time element. With so much to read, time is short for everyone.

    Another part I like is the ‘white space’ element. More contrasting space helps readers. Like reading movie scripts, a nice exercise to do, white space helps focus. I’m more a sentence by sentence writer online, but…the next thing I post will follow the 2-4 line paragraph idea.

    And now I’m thinking of rewriting other posts in a different format. Uh oh.

    Thanks again, David

    1. Awesome!

      I’m glad you liked it, David!

      White space is critical for ease of reading so I’m glad that part resonated with you. I hope your next post goes well trying to follow these rules! Maybe you’ll discover something I missed!

      Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  19. Hello Mike,

    I never really thought of the different styles of writing between a book and online. As a writer, currently book, formerly blog, I may have been guilty of the same “book” style of writing.

    When I’m done with the book writing perhaps I’ll jump back into blogging. I never was successful at it, had the same 12 followers for a year and a half…could have been due to marketing as well, but no matter.

    I’m still writing and that’s what matters to me. Thanks for sharing your input and opening my eyes.

    1. Hello!

      Thanks for reading an commenting! 🙂

      I imagine, with the differences in style, that would be a challenging transition. As you said, though, sticking with it is what count the most (enter Angela Duckworth 😉 )

  20. Oh Gosh!
    It could really help improve my website’s bounce rate.
    I just experienced a light-bulb moment.. ahaa.. this was the reason why some of my blogs worked really well. A well structured post is all that I need.

    Thanks a ton😊

    1. Nice!

      I’m glad the article helped you, Varun!

      The best way to learn is by messing up and figuring out what went wrong. So props to you for having the humility to confront a shortcoming.

      Keep it up!

  21. Wow! I have really learnt a lot through your article.

    I formally entered the blogging arena at the ripe old age of fifty-five. So I had quite an old-fashioned attitude to paragraph writing.

    When reading blog posts of younger folk, I have been quite irritated by the short sentences and white space. Now I realize that I am the one who is wrong. I need to alter my mindset.

    You opened my eyes to how things have changed in this modern day and age.

    Thank you for guiding me out of my stuffy old box and into the 21st century.

    Still, so many new things to learn to do differently. I am grateful for quality tutelage like yours Mike.

    Thank you.

    1. This was really kind, Barbara 🙂

      Thanks for reading and commenting. It means a lot.

      Getting trapped by our own habits is something that traps all of us at times. The old and the young. But I’m ecstatic that this article was so beneficial for you to read. That’s really the only reason I write… because I want it to help people.

      Thanks again!

  22. Excellent post, Mike.

    I discovered this via Aaron Orendorf on Facebook.

    I couldn’t agree more and this is exactly how I’m approaching my content writing and copywriting.

    I particularly enjoyed your points regarding rhythm. Something I’ll be concentrating more on in future writing. Thanks, Mike.

    1. Awesome, Gareth!

      Aaron Orendorf is a super good friend of mine 🙂

      I’m glad you enjoyed the piece. I had loads of fun putting it together. We all should constantly improve and I’m glad this article provided you with a a focus 🙂

      Thanks!

  23. Writing short paragraphs might be the way to lure readers to keep reading. When people online (most of them) see long paragraphs written in blocks, they tend to lose interest or x out the blog or website and go elsewhere online.

  24. Hi Mike,
    Great explanation. Paragraph writing format is really changing in 2017 and I’m really thankful that you’ve pointed out some of the typical issues. These issues may seem small but it could cause a serious negative impact.

    I think people don’t have the time to read the whole post unless they enjoy the topic and get the proper answer in a well-organized visual formation.

    Thanks
    Sam

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Sam!

      I think you’re exactly right in your assumption. People don’t have the time to read everything that writers write. And yet many writers, un-courteously in my opinion, expect people to be interested in their content, despite that lack of time.

      I’m glad the article was beneficial to you. 🙂

  25. This is great — thanks for the easy-to-follow advice.

    I’ll do a second (and probably third) read and follow the links for even more info.

    Thanks again for spelling this out so clearly and sharing it.

    Michelle

  26. A very informative article Mike. You are right that different paragraph depths should be mixed together to create a harmony in the article. Too many short ones or too many long ones can be boring and distracting for the readers.

    It is important in day and age for us bloggers to carefully see the trend. You are right, the old rules don’t work (or work to lesser degree) in this fast paced and competitive online market.

    Will bookmark this article and refer back to it to improve my writing. Cheers. Thanks.

  27. Amazing article.

    I am a content writing – but rarely do I read other people’s content. But when I read yours, I craved for more.

    Keep up the good work 🙂

  28. Hi Mike,

    This is a very impressive article. You have written a perfect tip for the blogger like us who still follow 3 paragraph’s article [ lead..body..ending ] style of writing. Thanks for sharing.

  29. Yes I will definitely agree that the rule has change for sure and and today’s style of paragraph is much more different from the past. I think the main different in today’s era is that writers are concentrating more on the readers and using lots of variation.

  30. This is a great article with excellent points. Thank you for explicitly pointing out what we’ve all been noticing subconsciously for some time, but not been able to put a finger on.

    I see that we not only consume content in a new way, the way we physically write is changing, as well.

    Most people write in tiny text boxes and not in the big blank page. They’re much more prolific writers in this space, what’s more, they never seem to have writer’s block or feel a desire to procrastinate while using this method of writing.

    Culture is changing and the life of word processors with the big blank static page may be nearing an end.

    The new model of writing could be a hybrid word processor that looks a lot like texting with the power of the word processor. Speare is an example.

    The key to experimenting writing in smaller paragraphs with lots of white space that reads well will be the ability to easily move sentences and thoughts around to see which work best together. Something a hybrid word processor would excel at.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Kent!

      That’s an interesting thought. Perhaps it is time for a new word processor that meets the demands of modern day writers.

      Hmmm…. Now you’ve got me thinking. 🙂

  31. Hi Mike,

    Thank you for this post. I’ve just initiated a website and blog to promote my upcoming historical memoir.

    I’d seen the lots-of-white-space rule, but your post puts some real meat on the bones of how to write paragraphs for online consumption. As a newbie in the blogosphere, I can’t thank you enough.

    I look forward to more of your content!

  32. I think that the rule is different in that the way we write is a lot less formal and structured as it used to be. A five sentence paragraph essay that you’re assigned when you are in grade school is not what most writers stick by. It’s a great way to learn and compose thoughts in a beginning middle and end structure but if you’re writing like that all the time you’re just wasting your time ~

  33. Yes, the paragraph meaning has changed with time..today most of the popular writers do not follow the old tradition of writing and rather choose to write in their own way…writing two or three lines in a paragraph does not effect the article..on the contrary it helps readers to the article easily…great post…thanks for sharing Mike..!!

    Jitendra

  34. I think this’ll be a great post for helping people become better writers whether it’s writing an article, press release, or blog post. I may discuss this soon on DNN.

  35. Thanks for writing this article – it’s interesting and certainly thought-provoking.

    However, this type of truncated content appeals to the hotly debated ‘8 second attention span’ / ‘our attention spans are getting shorter’ statements. While this may be true for some people. it’s simply an overused, self-manifesting number which cannot be sourced. There are no official stats to prove that attention spans are getting shorter, yet people are creating content as if this is the actual case. Do people really want content that looks like it’s been written for a pyramid scheme website?

    Just take a look at the whole ‘attention span’ stat here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-38896790

    I’m sure you can back this up with your own theories and knowledge – something I’m looking forward to, as I do agree with the majority of your concepts.

    Thanks again for writing this and starting an intriguing conversation 🙂

    1. I did not know that was my profile picture for this site. Apologies for this – it’s a jokey one haha

      1. Haha! No worries, Beth. 🙂

        Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate it.

        You make a great point. There are tons of ‘stats’ saying that our attention spans are worse than that of a gold fish. But they’re based on poorly executed research.

        Shoddy studies aside, I still think our attention spans have changed with the internet and social media. Today, there are so many things to entertain us that it’s always easy to find something better. If I, for example, Google for articles on how to blog like a pro and I find an article that has thick paragraphs, it’s easy for me to bounce from that page and find a new article on the topic.

        Perhaps it’s less our attention spans that have caused this change and more the rising free-market blogging. In other words, in a world where everyone can start a blog, the best and easiest to read blogs win.

        Just a thought. 🙂

      2. Mike, thanks so much for replying. I’m honoured! I retract some of my original statement as I’ve actually tried to experiment with your theory. I’ve used shorter sentences and even standalone sentences and I find the content not only looks more accessible but also flows so much better. So I’m relying to thank you for writing this blog post and it had encouraged me to have a more open mind!

      3. Of course! Thanks for the interesting points you made 🙂

        I’m glad I could help you think through this topic. It’s definitely not an easy subject to tackle.

        Best of luck on your blogging endeavors!

      4. Beth! Question for you. I’m working on a new article for Smartblogger and I really enjoyed our short convo here in the comment thread. Would you mind if I used our comments back and forth on this post to illustrate the importance of authors showing their face in the comments?

        I would seriously appreciate it! 🙂

    2. Marta Brysha

      Anyone with half an analytical brain knew this 8 second thing was bullshit of the highest order.

      No creature could have evolved on this planet with an 8 second memory (the goldfish reference/idea). It simply wouldn’t have had time to survive it’s first evolutionary iteration.

      If and when the human attention span decreases to 8 seconds the world will dissolve into chaos and the species will be gone in very short order. Perhaps the 8 seconds refers to the bullshit detector? Ie it takes 8 seconds or less to decipher that something is not worth investigating further.

  36. You learn as you go along in your internet writing career. Just keep making mistakes along the way and don’t worry about being perfect. The most successful bloggers and internet marketers today made the biggest mistakes when it came to content optimization and long term achievement of content marketing goals.

    Long story short….

    Blogging is the ideal side hustle career.

  37. Thanks, Mike,
    This article helped me articulate to myself some of the unconscious drifts I’ve been taking without really thinking about them, shorter paragraphs, mixed in length, more spaces.

    I’m an old-school writer, having been taught in the ’50s and I’ve been an active writer all these years. In the switch to online writing I’ve gradually trended to short paragraphs but felt nagging guilt, as if my wonderful teachers, now long gone, were chiding me. Perhaps now they will see your post and have some compassion on me!

    More seriously though, subconsciously following the trends you mention has significantly raised my readership participation. Now that you’ve brought them more to the forefront of my thinking, I’ll more consciously apply the ideas.

    (BTW: A second factor that helps me is frequent use of sub-heads, used more liberally than the strict rules of print. The third element I find especially effective is interspersing a photo about every six to eight paragraphs.)

    Beth makes some good points in her comments above but we are not talking here about truncating our copy or simplifying our ideas. To me, the evolving online format is more absorbable and allows a quicker grasp of the content.

    There is an historic valid economic reason printers and their writers developed longer paragraphs; paper and printing are expensive and bigger books and magazines cost more to ship. Older sentencing, paragraphing, spacing and typography styles had economic parameters unnecessary online.

    The rule is no longer WWGD*, but rather what will get the idea across best. Online we are free from the economic constraints of physical printing and free to experiment with improving comprehension and communication.

    In the forefront of the readability change was the 1990’s online shift to san-serif. Fortunately there were no firm old-school rules regarding that, so we changed quickly without guilt. Now we are breaking out of other molds and adjusting formatting for the most effective comprehension, whether it be for formal scientific writing, family news posts or “written for a pyramid scheme website.”

    Thanks again!

    *What Would Gutenberg Do

    1. Awesome!

      Thanks for reading and commenting, George!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

      I love your idea about subheadings. This is very common in a lot of the books about sales copy that I’ve read. Very insightful. 🙂

      Mike

    2. Marta Brysha

      @ George Sitts

      Your comment regarding the economics of printing is really interesting. Ever tried reading a newspaper from the early 1900s? The writing is so densely packed on the page it is an utter night mare to read!

      I don’t know if it’s about making your old school teacher scream. It’s about format appropriate writing styles. For example, I would hate to read a novel with paragraphs structured like a blog post.

      You may find my comments below of interest.

  38. Marta Brysha

    I’m not so sure that the rules for writing have changed, but rather that the internet is a platform that requires new rules.

    I personally hate reading posts that are littered with single sentence, so called paragraphs. They are not paragraphs, they are merely marooned sentences. It can often be hard to tell where one thought begins and another ends; as bad as any run on paragraph.

    I just started Freedom Machine a week ago and here’s what I’m discovering about writing online:

    – It is a short form that is more akin to writing advertising copy than conventional journalism and is most effective when it assumes a conversational tone.

    -Articles are best kept short – 650 to 1000 words seems to be ideal

    – Articles must both inform and entertain

    – Thoughts must be concisely written and yet linked by all the classic structures of storytelling – introduction with a hook, back story, build up, climax, conclusion

    – What is “in it” for the reader must be frequently reiterated

    – It requires a fine balance between what you want to write about and presenting it in a format the audience is seeking

    From a structural perspective it really is a new way of writing and I am thoroughly enjoying the challenge of creating engaging this style of short form content that stands as quality writing.

  39. Great article, very useful for beginner like me. I agree with you about ” Short Paragraphs Are Mandatory” . long paragraphs make visitors do not want to read it.

  40. I have to say, so far I’ve never believed in websites for bloggers trying to earn money. After reading this article I’m super convinced that the content you’re providing is worth implementing. About what we learnt in school. It was absolute bullshit. Atleast in India, the teachers are following ideas that they grew up with and are not open to going with the generation.

  41. Hey Mike,

    Thanks for this sweet guide on paragraph structure and execution. I’ve always known that internet grammar is a different beast compared to the traditional kind. And you underlined many of the things I’ve picked up in the past from different corners of the interwebs. Awesome stuff!

  42. Great job, Mike.

    Being a copywriter, I’m conversant with these rules. But I must confess that you’ve highlighted them in such a way that they easily stick to the brain. Impressive!

  43. Really nice article! Users always prefer content which have short sentence and content with heading and sub-headings as they are easy to understand the article.

  44. Great article, Mike.

    All clients want blogs today. But what exactly is a blog? So much advice for blogging lends itself to selling.

    I’ve been trying to squeeze narratives and profile pieces into a blog format. (The blogs are indirectly selling a service.) It isn’t easy to do. For starters, it’s hard to condense someone’s life into a brief blog.

    Have you seen this done well?

    Thanks!

  45. Mike, I read much online.

    Some of my reading is scientific material. Unfortunately they tend to be wordy, and “braggy” about status.

    Outside of that, I have noticed the writing trend you mention:
    • with short paragraphs,
    • the use of subtitles, and
    • bullets

    We are “information rich” and I want writers to get to the point quickly, then develop their supporting information.

    Thanks Mike and the many others commenting.

  46. Wow, such an epic post!

    I’ve been writing for over a year now – but this really humbled me. There are lots of improvement to be done in my writing style, really.

  47. Mike,
    Great article with a lot of helpful information.

    I have blogged for many years without knowing what the industry standard was for paragraph format. Thank you for breaking it down and showing examples. This will really help improve the flow of my writing. Thanks!

    I am definitely sharing this so others can benefit from the great information you have here.

  48. Thanks for sharing and posting Mike, its covering and pointing reaaly good hints. Finding topics to write is half job, rest is write it for reader not for writer. This article should be read for new blogger.

  49. Small Description of any framework on a digital platform is very necessary to represent your data to viewers. It’s like the design of your data which catch the attention of the user.
    thanks for sharing updated article trick.

  50. Great article. Paragraph should always contain both a topic and a controlling idea for the direction of the composition. Thanks for sharing this.

  51. Well, thank you for these wonderful tips.

    Previously I use to write an essay that usually had three parts: introduction, essence, and conclusion.

    Some of the blogs I wrote in four parts, namely: introduction, problem, proposal, and conclusion.

    Many bloggers write five-paragraph essays, where there are introductions or suggestions, paragraph-1, paragraph-2, paragraph-1, and conclusion.

    But, from now I will definitely follow your tips while writing any paragraphs. See this comment, is it as per your tips or not? He He He

  52. Awaseome post Mike.

    There is some really good content out there but its all in huge blocks and an instant turn off. No matter how valuable it is I just dont seem to want to read it!

    Your spot on when it comes to short paragraphs, it holds the users attention not to mention helps with bounce rate etc.

    Hands up, we are guilty of block content and reading this has prompted me to address those long, ugly block content posts. Thanks for the inadvertent nudge.

  53. I totally agree with this article. As writers, we need to appreciate that most online readers are looking to skim and quickly obtain information we have. We need to optimize for the reader to give him or her the most value and relevance. We need to keep things as short and simple as possible without sacrificing quality.

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