Want to keep readers reading? Keep paragraphs short
Quick! Which of these paragraphs would you rather read?
This 105-word paragraph?
Or this 11-word one?
Paragraphs are visual cues.
That’s the problem with long paragraphs: Readers make decisions about your message based not on what you said or on how well you said it but on what it looks like after you’ve said it. And paragraph length is one of your message’s most important visual cues.
“Long paragraphs are a visual predictor that a story won’t work,” says Jon Ziomek, associate professor at the Medill School of Journalism.
So how long is too long for a paragraph?
The problem with paragraphs
Readers avoid long ones
If your paragraph is too long, you might as well stamp on it in red ink, “Don’t bother reading this.” That’s because readers skip long paragraphs.
Assuming you actually want readers to read your paragraphs, you need to know how long is too long. What’s the average length of a paragraph that readers are willing to read?
The good news is, academics have studied this question in the lab and come up with an answer. The bad news is, that information almost never makes it into the hands of those of us who are actually writing paragraphs.
That’s where Cut Through the Clutter — our tight-writing Master Class on May 11-12 in Chicago — comes in. In this class, you’ll get proven-in-the-lab targets you can use to measurably improve your copy’s readability.
You’ll learn how long is too long — for your paragraphs, sentences, phrases and words. You’ll find out how to use a cool tool to measure, monitor and manage readability. You’ll leave with a seven-step system for making every piece you write easier to read and understand.
Our Master Classes always sell out quickly, but tickets to this one are moving really fast. You can still save $100 if you act fast: Just 8 early bird tickets remain. Don’t miss out. Register now.
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