The importance of paragraph breaks when writing web content articles
I’ve recently taken some time to go through and read a lot of web content sites, blog sites, and article sites, and one thing I’ve noticed quite often is that many people just don’t seem to know when to break a line for a paragraph in their content. Paragraphs are important for a number of reasons, and if you want your writing to be its best, it’s important to know when to add a paragraph break and why.
Web content is a bit different than print in that the reader will see the content on a screen and not on a page or in a book. Many people use reading guides or their fingers or note cards to follow while reading a printed item, but this is almost impossible to do on the computer without leaving unsightly fingerprints on your monitor. That brings me to the first reason why paragraph breaks are important: to make it easier for your readers to read your content without too much eye strain.
Another reason for proper paragraph breaks is to make the writing more appealing at first glance. A page with a long scroll of unbroken writing is not only NOT attractive, it’s a bit intimidating to read too much.
Also, it’s important to break paragraph breaks when thoughts flow from one to another, letting the reader know when a change in thought, mood, or tone has occurred in the writing. This helps to divide the elements of the piece of writing into different sections with similar content, allowing the reader to more easily focus on the key points of your piece.
So how do you determine where to place a paragraph break?
Good question… Let me try to give you a good answer that will please web copywriters and editors as well as inveterate grammarians. A paragraph is a group of sentences grouped by similar meaning, intent, or content. When thought changes or a new idea or concept is introduced, a paragraph break allows a pause to switch the reader’s mind to the new concept or idea.
Next, especially for web copy, paragraphs should be short. When writing for print, longer paragraphs are more acceptable, but for web copy, 3-5 sentences of average length are usually a good paragraph and then a paragraph break is needed.
Paragraphs are also used to break up or accent something if you’re trying to make a point, add impact. For example, if you have a sentence that has a strong point and you really want it to stand out, you can turn that sentence into a paragraph on its own, with a break before and after, which will make the reader really pay attention to that sentence.
For dialogue, there must be a paragraph break before each new speaker. This means that sometimes very short dialogues will only be on one line. This is just proper punctuation for dialogue so it’s easy to see who’s saying what. For citations, short quotes can be included in the same paragraph as other text, but longer quotes, longer than one or two lines, must be in a paragraph on their own. (Note that this citation information is best for web copy. If you are writing documents or magazine articles and newsprint, you should refer to the AP Newsprint Style Guide, Chicago Manual of Style, MLA, or APA Style Guides to learn how to properly cite citations for other types of writing.)
Paragraphs are our friends!
When writing your web copy, keep these things in mind and be sure to use paragraphs correctly. Doing so will make your writing easier to read, more engaging, and help make more sense to the reader.