The little red wagon
I was reading a blog post about content marketing yesterday and realized part way through that I was having a tough time following along. The ideas were not overly complex, but they had no coherence. I felt as if I was being pulled in a little red wagon down a winding, bumpy path.
I decided to figure out why I experienced the writing this way, and I found that it was the result of poor, random paragraphing. For the introduction, the writer had 11 one sentence paragraphs. These were the bumps.
If you are like most bloggers, paragraphing is all about length, short. Bloggers of late have become conscious that readers are turned off by long paragraphs and chunks of text, and in response, they are abandoning many of the functions of paragraphs. However, paragraphs cannot be measured by length alone. Other textual features can help you break up the text.
Why does it matter you ask? Well, paragraphing can either make your blog post clean, with organized information that helps the reader navigate your ideas smoothly, like they are maneuvering an expensive Mercedes, or it can eliminate all sense of organization and create a bumpy ride. My goal is to help you create ideal paragraphs that will help rather than hinder.
The function of paragraphs relates to the human brain. The mind loves ideas to be ordered and categorized, and as you read, it is looking for clues to store the information efficiently. Topic sentences are like creating folders for your brain to place related ideas in.
If you are a writer and have not visited the Owl Purdue Online Writing Lab, I highly recommend you scan its pages. The lab has an amazing wealth of information on writing, geared toward college students and educated readers. They explain that:
A paragraph is a collection of related sentences dealing with a single topic. ... The basic rule of thumb with paragraphing is to keep one idea to one paragraph. If you begin to transition into a new idea, it belongs in a new paragraph.
Ideas and topics guide paragraphs rather than size. When you group related sentences, you provide your reader with organized units. Not only does this make reading smoother, but your writing becomes more scannable when organized this way. And, your readers' brains will be happy.
A few simple guidelines will help you accomplish this, and an advantage of writing this way is that it keeps you on track as a writer. The only way for your reader to be focused is for you to be their guide, so paragraphing benefits you too.
You may find it helpful to start with some kind of an outline to help you organize your ideas and decide on paragraph placement. This can take many forms: a formal outline, a mind map, a blueprint, or an informal sketching of idea units. Whatever you decide, you'll find organization comes much easier when you can see it visually on the page.
You don't need to be concerned about the number of paragraphs, as this is irrelevant. The important thing is that the paragraphs have a tight focus. So, this means that blogs can have smaller paragraphs. All you have to do is make your idea units smaller. So, for example, here I break up the paragraph structure into several paragraphs, when technically it is one idea. The shorter paragraphs are more appealing.
So, instead, I decided to break it up into different sections about structure to keep the paragraphs shorter. I will give you some general guidelines to help generate solid paragraphs. These are not hard, fast rules:
When you've finished this process, your paragraphs are organized and bound together throughout the post, and your readers will love it. This format makes it easily scannable for readers who are in a hurry, and it will turn that red wagon into a comfy Mercedes.
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