How to Write a Paragraph in 2017 (Yes, the Rules Have Changed)

How to Write a Paragraph in 2017 (Yes, the Rules Have Changed)

You want people to read your content, right?

That’s why you wrote it in the first place.

But getting people to read your content in today’s world of speedy news, food, and pleasure is a challenge. You’re not just competing with other writers, but with everything online — cat videos, Kardashian gossip, Game of Thrones, etc.

With all the available alternatives, your readers are easily distracted.

Most people who land on your page will scan it and decide, within seconds, to either leave or stay.

And one of the biggest turn-offs for online readers is poor paragraph structure.

That’s why you must master the art of writing paragraphs for today’s audience, and the first step to do so is to forget everything you learned about it in grade school.

Let me explain …

Why You Must Forget Everything School Taught You About Writing Paragraphs

The paragraph was born from a desire to topically organize long blocks of text. And for a long time, that worked.

“When the topic changes,” your grade school teacher said, “so does the paragraph.”

While that practice still mostly applies to print media — books, magazines, and sometimes newspapers — it’s an outdated rule of thumb for the larger rally of writers who spend the bulk of their time publishing online content.

Consider the drastic difference in paragraph length between this teacher-pleasing page from Habits of a Happy Brain and this online article by Tomas Laurinaricius that reviews the same book.

Contrast Paragraphs in a book vs. online article.

The difference in paragraph structure is obvious.

But why has the paragraph changed?

The main reason for the paragraph’s evolution is the way we consume media. Print publication is no longer top dog; online publication has become the primary media for consuming written content.

We read more from our screens than from the page, which completely changes how we approach the act of reading.

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

Online, a multitude of ads and pop-up notifications threaten that undying attention, especially when we’re reading on our mobiles.

The reading habits of our audience have changed, and we must change with them or risk being ignored.

So here are the rules for writing paragraphs that will be published online. Use them to your advantage the next time you sit down to create.

The Rules of the 2017 Paragraph

Rule #1. Short Paragraphs Are Mandatory


One of the best 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. A visitor who looks at such a page will click the back button faster than you can cry, “Please give it a chance!”

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 — and this is critical in this age of distraction.

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 that short paragraphs have on readers.

In her above article, there are ten paragraphs. The longest paragraph is 42 words, and seven of them have only 12 words or less.

The 100- to 200-word paragraph standard is crippling before our eyes.

So what’s the new standard? How short do you have to be?

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

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 something that’s hard to teach. It’s not an exact science and doesn’t follow hard rules. It’s something that you mostly have to feel out.

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:

1. Variation

As mentioned earlier, you want to keep your paragraphs short, but that doesn’t mean every paragraph has to be under 50 words.  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.
  • 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, the effect is similar.

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 were 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.”

Because I don’t have to do anything to generate it.

I could die, and the money would keep coming in month after month for years into the future.

But that doesn’t mean no one is working.

It also doesn’t mean I’m personally receiving the entire $60,000.

The truth is, most of that money goes to paying my team.

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.

Similarly bothersome is if the excerpt were 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 selling online courses.

From that total, about $60,000 of it is technically “passive income” because I don’t have to do anything to generate it. I could die, and the money would keep coming in month after month for years into the future. But that doesn’t mean no one is working. It also doesn’t mean I’m personally receiving the entire $60,000.

The truth is, most of that money goes to paying my team. We have course instructors, customer support representatives, marketing specialists, and so on. All of them are working full-time to keep the “passive income” machine running, and they do it quite well. But somebody still has to be the boss.

While I don’t technically do any of the work necessary to generate that income, I do spend about 10 hours every week on phone calls and meetings. I also spend at least another 10-20 hours a week thinking about how to improve the business and make things run more efficiently. So, in reality, I’m working 20-30 hours per week for the “passive income.” In exchange, I receive a nice salary, plus the majority of the profits the business generates.

Visually, this looks dull (and somewhat daunting) to read, and a casual reader is likely to be turned off by it.

In the original, however, each paragraph is appropriately varied, which doesn’t just look but also feels pleasant to read.

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.

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 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.

It reads even worse as follows:

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.

See what I mean?

Due to our topically-paragraphed past, readers still expect that topics will — for the most part — stick with each other. It still reads better that way.

Just avoid beating topics to death. Allow topics to change as they need to — which should be every few sentences.

3. Emphasis

Paragraphs of one short sentence naturally add emphasis.

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

For example, check my introduction to an article for Carrot — a SaaS company that caters to real estate investors.

Use paragraph structure to guide readers.

See how the introduction guides the reader through the feelings they experience regarding content marketing with a long paragraph, and then emphasizes, “So you quit producing”?

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

The longer paragraph that precedes this phrase preps the reader for the punch. The effect wouldn’t be quite the same if it was preceded by a paragraph that was similarly short.

But you don’t always have to go from a long paragraph straight 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.

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

Write Paragraphs for Today’s World and Readers Will Thank You

Yes, you want people to read your content.

And despite the difficulty in grabbing the attention of today’s readers, you can still turn visitors into content absorbers by crafting easy-to-read paragraphs — paragraphs that are short, rhythmic and varied.

Doing so is simply a matter of being aware of the way your paragraphs are structured. Once you’ve mastered the art of the paragraph, you’ll do much better at keeping your readers’ attention. People will crave your content and they’ll look forward to the next time you publish.

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

About the Author: “Lover of all things communication — speaking, writing, and listening — Mike is currently the founder of MB Content where he helps businesses create significant, consistent and valuable pieces of content. You can see more of his work at Carrot, follow him on Twitter, or join his email list for entrepreneurs at Booktrep.”

97 Comments

  1. Faj Samuel
    Aug 17, 2017 @ 10:38:27

    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.

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 17, 2017 @ 10:42:47

      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!

      Reply

  2. Arvind
    Aug 17, 2017 @ 10:53:50

    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..!!!

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 17, 2017 @ 11:06:17

      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!

      Reply

  3. Krishna Govada
    Aug 17, 2017 @ 11:15:13

    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.

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 17, 2017 @ 12:04:35

      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 🙂

      Reply

  4. Rob
    Aug 17, 2017 @ 11:57:20

    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!

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 17, 2017 @ 12:56:18

      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 🙂

      Reply

    • Kara Miro
      Aug 20, 2017 @ 12:42:15

      Because if someone says it online, it must be true.

      Reply

  5. Damilola
    Aug 17, 2017 @ 11:58:49

    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!

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 17, 2017 @ 12:57:15

      Thanks for reading it, Damilola!

      I’m glad you liked it. 🙂

      Reply

  6. Shaikh Masood Alam
    Aug 17, 2017 @ 12:26:11

    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.

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 17, 2017 @ 12:58:39

      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 🙂

      Reply

  7. Takh
    Aug 17, 2017 @ 12:29:53

    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!

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 17, 2017 @ 13:06:58

      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! 🙂

      Reply

  8. Renard Moreau
    Aug 17, 2017 @ 12:30:34

    [ Smiles ] Long paragraphs are painful to read.

    Short paragraphs can be easily scanned and they do not intimidate the reader.

    Reply

    • Takh
      Aug 17, 2017 @ 12:38:41

      I want that avatar!

      How can I get one?

      Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 17, 2017 @ 13:07:37

      Thanks for reading, Renard!

      I see what you did there with your comment paragraph length 😉

      Reply

  9. Ikechukwu
    Aug 17, 2017 @ 13:34:11

    Fantastic article Mike.

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

    HotJar is great choice for this.

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 17, 2017 @ 13:35:18

      Oh!

      I like that idea.

      I have my own blog over at booktrep.com and I might just give this a shot. Seems like it could be totally fascinating.

      Reply

  10. vijay
    Aug 17, 2017 @ 14:13:24

    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

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 17, 2017 @ 14:24:18

      Absolutely, Vijay!

      Thanks for reading and responding! 🙂

      Reply

  11. Philip V Ariel
    Aug 17, 2017 @ 14:23:15

    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

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 17, 2017 @ 14:25:09

      Thanks a ton, Philip!

      I’m glad this article was helpful to you! 🙂

      Reply

  12. Ryan Biddulph
    Aug 17, 2017 @ 15:51:40

    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.

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 17, 2017 @ 16:13:02

      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. 🙂

      Reply

  13. Amy
    Aug 17, 2017 @ 16:25:37

    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.

    Reply

  14. Mike Blankenship
    Aug 17, 2017 @ 16:31:01

    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! 🙂

    Reply

  15. Chris Ellis
    Aug 17, 2017 @ 16:32:18

    Awesome thanks!

    Reply

  16. Rahul Kumar Shandilya
    Aug 17, 2017 @ 23:11:11

    One of my first lessons of blogging and put it across so nicely. This is amazing article….Just feel like yesterday when I first learnt about blogging.

    Reply

  17. Biswajit Saha
    Aug 18, 2017 @ 01:07:18

    Hi Mike,

    Wow was not aware that paragraph writing has changed so much.Thanks for the information

    Reply

  18. Nabeel Azeez
    Aug 18, 2017 @ 01:57:59

    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.

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 18, 2017 @ 11:16:20

      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).

      Reply

      • Mike Blankenship
        Aug 18, 2017 @ 11:17:26

        “More guilty” is what I meant to type. 🙂

  19. Lewis Stowe
    Aug 18, 2017 @ 04:08:00

    This is great Mike. We came across similar guidelines at the beginning of the year so I glad to see that everybody is on the same page now.

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 18, 2017 @ 11:18:24

      Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

      Now if we could only get the world of print median to listen 😉

      Reply

  20. Robert
    Aug 18, 2017 @ 10:54:48

    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

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 18, 2017 @ 11:19:39

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Robert!

      Absolutely! These rules make online publications easier to read and that’s beneficial with short and long pieces. 🙂

      Reply

  21. Ajay Kumar
    Aug 18, 2017 @ 10:57:24

    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.

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 18, 2017 @ 11:20:14

      Thanks for the kudos, Ajay!

      I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      Reply

  22. Jesse Collier
    Aug 18, 2017 @ 11:03:45

    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

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 18, 2017 @ 11:21:54

      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 🙂

      Reply

  23. Manish Kumar
    Aug 18, 2017 @ 11:50:06

    Great Post. Just loved it. Thanks for sharing such a useful information.

    Reply

  24. David Gillaspie
    Aug 18, 2017 @ 12:22:16

    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

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 18, 2017 @ 12:26:22

      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! 🙂

      Reply

  25. Ladyalamo
    Aug 18, 2017 @ 21:34:26

    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.

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 18, 2017 @ 21:42:21

      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 😉 )

      Reply

  26. Varun Shrivastava
    Aug 19, 2017 @ 00:46:31

    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😊

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 19, 2017 @ 14:00:08

      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!

      Reply

  27. Barbara Harrison
    Aug 19, 2017 @ 10:08:25

    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.

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 19, 2017 @ 14:02:30

      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!

      Reply

  28. Nirmal Kumar
    Aug 19, 2017 @ 12:52:31

    I do accept that we need to write short paragraphs. I have already started following this on my website.

    Reply

  29. S M Karamath
    Aug 20, 2017 @ 04:11:54

    Awesome Content

    I will try to Implement all these things ASAP

    Reply

  30. Gareth Daine
    Aug 20, 2017 @ 06:04:29

    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.

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 20, 2017 @ 13:43:25

      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!

      Reply

  31. DNN
    Aug 20, 2017 @ 07:07:46

    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.

    Reply

  32. Sam
    Aug 21, 2017 @ 10:22:29

    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

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 21, 2017 @ 13:39:45

      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. 🙂

      Reply

  33. Michelle Marlahan
    Aug 21, 2017 @ 19:21:06

    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

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 31, 2017 @ 13:25:58

      This is awesome!

      I’m glad I could provide so much value for you. 🙂

      Thank you for reading it!

      Reply

  34. Raghunath Samantaray
    Aug 22, 2017 @ 01:00:31

    It’s my first visit to this blog, Thanks Mike for Sharing this article.

    Now I am going to implement this formula on my blog.

    Reply

  35. Ahmad Imran
    Aug 22, 2017 @ 16:05:41

    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.

    Reply

  36. Khan
    Aug 23, 2017 @ 16:46:54

    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 🙂

    Reply

  37. MeroKalam
    Aug 23, 2017 @ 19:34:00

    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.

    Reply

  38. Dave
    Aug 24, 2017 @ 07:09:55

    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.

    Reply

  39. Kent Sisco
    Aug 24, 2017 @ 07:40:22

    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.

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 31, 2017 @ 13:28:50

      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. 🙂

      Reply

  40. Bee Bloeser
    Aug 24, 2017 @ 11:28:39

    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!

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 31, 2017 @ 13:29:21

      Awesome, Bee!

      I’m glad this was so helpful for you!

      Good luck with your new blog. 🙂

      Reply

  41. Scott Hartley
    Aug 24, 2017 @ 21:09:40

    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 ~

    Reply

  42. vittal
    Aug 25, 2017 @ 03:32:50

    This is really an eye opener to me. This type of paragraph creation is really a new concept to me. Thanks for sharing

    Reply

  43. Jitendra
    Aug 27, 2017 @ 00:36:05

    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

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 31, 2017 @ 13:30:14

      I totally agree, Jitendra!

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article. 🙂

      Reply

  44. DNN
    Aug 28, 2017 @ 15:19:52

    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.

    Reply

  45. Beth Kennedy
    Aug 29, 2017 @ 03:43:07

    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 🙂

    Reply

    • Beth Kennedy
      Aug 29, 2017 @ 03:44:11

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

      Reply

      • Mike Blankenship
        Aug 31, 2017 @ 13:35:39

        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. 🙂

      • Beth Kennedy
        Sep 11, 2017 @ 18:06:25

        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!

      • Mike
        Sep 11, 2017 @ 18:10:39

        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!

    • Marta Brysha
      Sep 07, 2017 @ 15:46:12

      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.

      Reply

  46. spanish to english
    Aug 29, 2017 @ 04:58:48

    Great advice! Online publication has become the primary media for consuming written content.

    Reply

  47. DNN
    Aug 29, 2017 @ 21:10:21

    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.

    Reply

  48. George Sitts
    Aug 31, 2017 @ 13:15:30

    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

    Reply

    • Mike Blankenship
      Aug 31, 2017 @ 13:37:33

      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

      Reply

    • Marta Brysha
      Sep 01, 2017 @ 17:14:33

      @ 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.

      Reply

  49. Marta Brysha
    Sep 01, 2017 @ 17:10:06

    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.

    Reply

  50. Raji Oyinloluwa
    Sep 10, 2017 @ 15:00:12

    Wow! this has been helpful. Thanks a lot 😆

    Reply

  51. Anita
    Sep 12, 2017 @ 10:59:10

    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.

    Reply

  52. Siddharth Kothari
    Sep 14, 2017 @ 13:26:50

    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.

    Reply

  53. ataghana michael
    Sep 15, 2017 @ 21:35:55

    You just give me some ideas for how to write a popular blog post; thanks for the tip.

    Reply

  54. David Eversley
    Sep 17, 2017 @ 20:33:18

    Thanks very much for this insightful article. I agree 100%

    Reply

  55. Awogor Matthew
    Sep 20, 2017 @ 20:28:14

    Unbelievable. You’ve just opened my mind now to this topic. I will do my best to flow with this soon.

    Reply

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