When it comes to paragraphs, shorter’s better
Believe it or not, this is an actual paragraph that appeared in an actual publication:
It weighs in at 465 words. It’s the first paragraph in the story. And it appears in an online publication. Can you imagine reading this honker on your phone?
What’s wrong with long paragraphs?
The problem with long paragraphs is that they look hard to read. And because they look hard to read, people don’t read them.
“Long paragraphs are a visual predictor that a story won’t work.”
— Jon Ziomek, associate professor at the Medill School of Journalism
That’s right: Readers skip long paragraphs. So if your paragraph is too long, you might as well stamp on it in red ink, “Don’t bother reading this paragraph. Our lawyers made us add this stuff. We formatted it this way on purpose so you’d skip it.”
So how long is too long for a paragraph?
How long should your message be?
Would your message be twice as good if it were half as long?
Yes, the research says. The shorter your message, the more likely readers are to read it, understand it and make good decisions based on it.
Find out at Rev Up Readability — our tight-writing workshop, which starts Nov. 14.
There, you’ll use a cool (free!) tool to analyze your message for 27 readability metrics. You’ll leave with quantifiable targets, tips and techniques for measurably boosting readability.
Save up to $100 with our group discounts.