Paragraphs – structure and visual impact

By Mary Morel

When writing effective paragraphs, you need to think about their structure and the way they look on the page.

First impressions count and if your paragraphs are long and dense, your readers will be daunted.

Guidelines for writing paragraphs

  • Put your main idea in the first sentence. This is known as the topic sentence. When re-reading your writing,  read the first sentence of each paragraph to make sure you haven’t buried the main idea at the end.
  • Have one idea per paragraph and keep your paragraphs short (4– 8 lines as a general rule). You can occasionally have a one-sentence paragraph for emphasis. (If you are writing an email or press release, several of your paragraphs will be one-sentence length.)
  • Avoid starting several paragraphs in a row with the same word as it feels repetitive and attracts attention away from your content. Also watch out for word stacks (same words that fall on top of each other in consecutive lines).
  • Link your paragraphs by:
    • Having a logical structure so your ideas flow smoothly
    • Repeating key words from the end of the previous paragraph
    • Replacing key words with pronouns (This … )
    • Using connectives, such as However and Therefore, though use these with caution because they are overused in business writing
    • Using subheadings for new ideas

In summary, think of TEEL (topic sentence, explain, expand and link).

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