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?
Write like the Times.
We turned to The New York Times to find out. We analyzed 99 stories in a recent edition of The New York Times. (We skipped the sports pages.)
On this day, the Times’ average paragraph length averaged 36 words per paragraph and Weighed in at a median of 37 words per paragraph.
Take a tip from the Times: Keep your paragraphs nice and neat and sweet.
Keep paragraphs short, like the Times.
While you’re at it, why not break up your copy with some super-short paragraphs like these, which weigh in at …
… 16 words
… 14 words
… 13 words
… 12 words
… 11 words
… 9 words
Now, that’s a paragraph that goes down easy.
What’s your average paragraph length?