“When I see a paragraph shrinking under my eyes like a strip of bacon, I know I’m on the right track,” says Peter DeVries, American author and novelist known for his satiric wit. Paragraphs, says Richard Anderson in Powerful Writing Skills, are like rest stops, giving our eyes and minds a break before going on to the next matter.
Minimalism in blogging, I think, includes making posts readable and easier to look at, and short paragraphs are part of that. In fact, short paragraphs are part of the formula I teach newbie Indianapolis blog writers:
- Choose one main idea as the focus for each blog post. I call that the Power of One. (More to add? Save it for future posts.)
- Compose an opening sentence that’s a “grabber”, so that readers just have to find out what you meant.
- Explain, clarify, illustrate, discuss your one main point, using a few short paragraphs.
- Issue your parting “shot”, a snappy exit line that sums up the thought you want your readers to remember. This one tip, I’ve found, can be of enormous business blogging help.
Paragraphs do not all need to be the same size, Anderson stresses. In fact, they can be as short as one sentence or even one word. But each paragraph, with the exception of the opening one, needs to be tied in some way to the one that came before it, and each should begin and end with important pieces of information. “You don’t need to sum up what you’ve said before going on to the next paragraph; use a transition that makes the reader want to hurry on to that next paragraph,” he advises.
It’s interesting that Richard Anderson tells writers to use only indented paragraphs. “Our eyes have been trained to recognize each new indented paragraph as a chunk of new information to process”. (In formatting business blog posts, I prefer to use block paragraphs, with the spacing between the paragraphs signaling that a new chunk of information is being presented.)
But whether you choose indented paragraphs or space-separated block format, Anderson’s next piece of advice is very valid, and perhaps particularly valid for online content: “Enormous blocks of print implant the image of a difficult subject in your readers’ minds….Generally speaking, the shorter the paragraphs and the fewer the number of ideas contained in them, the easier they are to read.”