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Paragraphing (Length Consistency)

Summary:

The purpose of this handout is to give some basic instruction and advice regarding the creation of understandable and coherent paragraphs.

Paragraphs are units of thought with one adequately developed idea. Listed here are some rules of thumb to use when paragraphing. As your writing improves, you'll be able to break these "rules" to meet your own needs. Until then, these suggestions can be helpful.

  • Put only one main idea per paragraph.
  • Aim for three to five or more sentences per paragraph.
  • Include on each page about two handwritten or three typed paragraphs.
  • Make your paragraphs proportional to your paper. Since paragraphs do less work in short papers, have short paragraphs for short papers and longer paragraphs for longer papers.
  • If you have a few very short paragraphs, think about whether they are really parts of a larger paragraph—and can be combined—or whether you can add details to support each point and thus make each into a more fully developed paragraph.

You can check on whether your paragraphs are balanced by looking at your paper.

Some balanced pages:

These images show text that is balanced on pages. The left image shows text that is left-justified. The right image shows text that is centered.

Paragraph Balance

Unbalanced pages with ideas not equally developed:

These images show text in unbalanced boxes to illustrate the need to balance paragraphs and sections in your paper.

Unbalanced Paragraphs

Use the following graphics as a tool to organize your paper with one main idea in each box. Use as many pages and boxes as needed.

These images contain line drawings of three boxes one on top of the other. The first box on the page contains the word introduction. The last box on the page contains the word conclusion.

Graphics to Help with Balance and Organization

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Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.