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How long should a paragraph be?

How long should a paragraph be? According to an academic friend of mine, “as long as possible”. One paragraph break per page is quite sufficient, he would argue, and indeed helpful if you want a paper to look ‘weighty’.

On the other hand, the first weekly newspaper I ever worked on had a house style of “a new paragraph for every sentence”.

So what’s the happy medium? It seems that the newspaper was quite far-sighted.

There are two trends behind this. The first is the increasing volume of distractions around us, requiring printed articles to be less demanding. More paragraphs means more white space, and more white space looks more lightweight (which of course backs up my academic friend’s theory).

White space is nice. Short paragraphs stand out.

Secondly, much of what we read is now on small screens, often with less than 200 words to a view. Breaking that up into half a dozen paragraphs, to let it breathe, means a new paragraph at least every two or three sentences, perhaps less.

I think that this article is about right for modern use. It’s 214 words long, but has 7 paragraphs, ranging from 1 sentence to 3, and from 8 words to 45. As ever though, the rules are yours to make.