Wondering how many sentences should be in a paragraph? We’ll provide writing tips and tricks to make your next article an easy read.
Once in a while, you’ll find an article on a topic you’re deeply interested in, but it comes across as a dry, lifeless wall of text. What gives? Writing requires more than just a good idea to hold your attention; it needs structure to communicate its content with clarity and precision.
The paragraph is an invaluable tool to help writers divide big ideas into digestible chunks. An article’s main idea must be broken down into smaller concepts, each contained within its own paragraph. Each paragraph builds on the article's subject, leading to the conclusion, which wraps everything up.
How many sentences should be in a paragraph for maximum readability? Read on (or go back and count the sentences in the previous paragraphs) for the answer, plus more writing tips.
What should a good paragraph include? 🤔
It’s best to conceptualize each body paragraph in an article as a small essay with a very specific point. Paragraph structure should typically include the following aspects:
- An introductory sentence. The introductory, or topic sentence, establishes the paragraph’s point. This sentence should also link to the article's primary focus and the previous paragraph.
- Evidence. Present a few sentences that support the introductory sentence and build on the idea. These sentences should complement one another, ensuring you’ve established solid evidence for the claim of the introductory sentence once you arrive at the conclusion.
- Conclusion. A paragraph should make a coherent, self-contained argument that supports the article’s main point. The final sentence concludes this argument, summarizing the topic sentence and evidence before setting up the next paragraph. Unless you’re writing the article’s conclusion, each paragraph should feed into the one that follows it.
This format is relatively straightforward, but it’s also very broad. Online writing must be concise to keep readers from clicking away, so how does a copywriter ensure readers stay to the end? Short, punchy paragraphs.
How long is a paragraph? 📏
Can a paragraph be three sentences? What about two? One? The online writing lab at Purdue University suggests three to five sentences as the ideal paragraph length, regardless of the kind of writing you’re doing. In reality, a paragraph is as long as it needs to be.
Some pieces of academic writing may have paragraphs that are pages long, so asking how many sentences are in an essay or paragraph won’t net you a specific answer. Some creative pieces even eschew paragraphs altogether as an artistic choice. But for online or business writing, stick to short paragraphs and precise structure.
Modern digital usage requires snappy writing. Online readers may be using a mobile device to read an article. Maybe they’re on a morning commute with just a few minutes to spare. Information should be presented in the most concise way possible without sacrificing essential details. It’s a tricky balancing act that professional copywriters spend years perfecting, but the outcome is a piece of writing that retains customers and, hopefully, helps grow a brand.
This applies to internal communications as well. When composing a pitch for a prospective client or writing a style guide, breaking ideas into smaller, more manageable chunks helps boost readability.
Tips to make your paragraphs shine ✨
Now that we have established the basic structure of a paragraph, let's go over strategies to make your writing impactful and thought-provoking.
- Grammar and spelling. Editing apps, such as Grammarly, reduce the risk of missing basic errors in your writing. Still, no app can replace the human eye, so ensure that each word in your paragraph is used correctly. Typos, incorrect word use, or grammatical errors undermine the authority of the piece and often deter readers.
- Avoid lengthy paragraphs. As noted above, three to five sentences is a good rule of thumb, but shorter is sometimes better. If you struggle to keep paragraphs under five sentences, look for places to further break up the info.
- Vary sentence and paragraph length. Shorter paragraphs can also be useful. A single sentence may even suffice if the concept is simple. Short paragraphs and sentences are an excellent way to add drama to a piece of writing, creating a sense of urgency for the reader.
- Remain coherent. How many words are in a sentence, generally? It sometimes feels like the more words we add to a sentence, the better it is. Often, less is more. Complex sentences are acceptable in some disciplines, but concise clarity is key for online articles. Avoid flourishes and prioritize the main idea of your paragraph.
- Understand your reader. Who’s your reader? When building a brand, market research helps establish a target audience. From there, you must figure out how to speak to them. Should you use technical language, or does your audience prefer a casual tone? Your deliverables should communicate ideas in a style and tone that are palatable to your target audience.
Can a paragraph be two sentences? ✌️
Yes, a paragraph can be any number of sentences as long as it remains coherent. This is why longer paragraphs are generally frowned upon; it’s easy for an idea to get lost. If two sentences can clearly communicate a concept, that’s perfectly fine.
Does a paragraph need to be five sentences? 🖐️
Again, a paragraph should only be as long as is required. It’s wise to limit paragraphs to five sentences or fewer to ensure the message remains clear, but it isn’t a hard-and-fast rule.
How do I know if my paragraph is done? 🔚
Your paragraph is complete once you’ve clearly and precisely communicated an idea — just like this one.
When should I put a break in my paragraph? ✂️
If a paragraph starts to appear long — especially if you’ve moved on to another idea — it’s time to insert a paragraph break. Remember, each paragraph should cover a precise topic. When you start another idea, start a new paragraph.
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