This image is from one of Dr. Bailey's books: The Practical Writer (7th edition) Paragraphs

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Bottom line

  • Use short paragraphs.
  • Start with an especially short paragraph.
  • Use block (that is, unindented) paragraphs.

Use short paragraphs

Try not to have a page with long paragraphs, like this:

Bad layout: long paragraphs

Instead, try for paragraphs that look more like this:

Good layout: shorter paragraphs

You may wonder if one-sentence paragraphs are okay. Absolutely—almost all professional writers use them frequently.

Start with an especially short paragraph

Let's look at the good example again:

Good layout: an especially short first paragraph

Notice how short the first paragraph is. That's a trick most professionals know. Readers are much more likely to pick up a document with an easy beginning!

Use block paragraphs

I recommend block paragraphs for business writing. In other words, don't indent the first line of your paragraphs.

Here's a page without block paragraphing:

Bad layout: indented paragraphs

The left margin looks ragged, doesn't it? As a result, headings and bullets don't stand out very well.

To see the difference, let's look at the same page with block paragraphs:

Good layout: block paragraphs 

Headings and bullets stand out, don't they?

Your next step

Now let's turn to headings.

Copyright 2007 by Edward P. Bailey
(all rights reserved)