Every writer has, at some stage or another, wondered about the ideal paragraph length. You may have perhaps thought about this even more after discovering what you were taught in grade school may differ from the type of content you now write. So, how long should a paragraph actually be?
The answer to the ideal paragraph length is complicated. How long a paragraph should be is very much reliant on what you are writing (the content type), the niche, your target audience, in-house guides, and the delivery method.
This most likely does not answer your original question, and it may not seem to be very helpful … I know it is very frustrating, but stick with me! I’m about to reveal why the answer to the ideal paragraph length is that it depends. Ultimately, the best length of a paragraph is organically determined by what you are writing.
What Is a Paragraph?
In language circles, a paragraph is defined as a unit made up of a group of sentences centered around a single topic. After all, the cardinal rule of writing a paragraph is to focus on just one idea, so the paragraph takes the reader on a clear path—there is a beginning, middle, and end.
Since paragraphs are seen as the building blocks of most writing types, from academic research papers and reports to emails, web content, and books, experts agree that if you can master the art of writing a paragraph, you can write gold-star content.
This sounds easy, right?
Just join a writing course (there are many to choose from), work hard during the course, focus mainly on paragraph writing, master that skill, and boom! You are an expert writer and your content just shines …
If it were that easy, all writers would be rich, and their content would always be king.
It isn’t, and writing is about a lot more than just the paragraph. Think about talent, practice, word choice, punctuation (a cannibalistic “I ate Annie” vs “I ate, Annie”), grammar, style, and many other aspects. Still, even I can’t deny the importance of stringing sentences together coherently in a structure.
Paragraphs help you organize your writing and content. It almost subconsciously clues your reader in on how you think (one idea or a chunk at a time), and the paragraph does describe a thought in one to a few sentences.
The Structure of a Paragraph
Generally, there are three main sections to a paragraph:
- The Topic Sentence
The first sentence of your paragraph introduces the topic or idea you will discuss in the paragraph.
- The Support Sentence(s)
The supporting sentence or sentences (aka the body) gives your readers more information about the topic you introduced in the first sentence. These sentences may also support, describe, explain, and elaborate your argument.
You can also include token sentences here in the form of quotes, examples, supporting facts, and so forth.
You may have one to three (or sometimes more) supporting sentences.
- The Concluding Sentence
The last sentence of your paragraph draws everything together from the supporting sentence. Generally, this sentence is short and cohesive, but its “shortness” depends on your supporting facts.
What About a New Paragraph?
Each new paragraph then typically starts on a new line and also comprises a topic sentence, the supporting “evidence,” and concluding sentence. New paragraphs will contain new ideas, but there needs to be a logical flow from one idea to the next.
The 5 Elements of a Paragraph
Every paragraph in your research paper, essay, report, SEO blog, or book should be:
- Unified: All the sentences in that paragraph should relate to the main idea you introduced in the topic sentence.
For example, for an ebook on the keto diet, one paragraph deals with fats being a keto-friendly food option. This paragraph could start by stating that fats, such as [add in examples], are keto-friendly.
Your supporting sentences may delve into why fats are keto-friendly (they keep you fuller for longer, help your body burn fat, which is now its main energy source, and so on). You could include a token sentence from a study on the effects of fat on the body and how it is a much better energy source than carbohydrates. Your concluding sentence will briefly tie your ideas together.
- Clearly related to your main topic: The paragraphs and each sentence therein should clearly correlate to the main topic of what you are writing.
In the keto ebook example above, every paragraph should clearly be related to the main topic, which is the keto diet. This means you shouldn’t introduce and expand on a high-carb diet, an anti-inflammatory diet, or a non-related topic.
- Order: The supporting sentences in your paragraphs are ordered in a certain way that helps the reader with understanding and following along.
My keto paragraph follows a descriptive and illustrative order. (Learn more about this in the next section.)
- Coherent: All your sentences in every paragraph should take your reader on a logical journey.
Per the keto example in point 1 of this section, my paragraph:
- flows logically from introducing fats as keto-friendly,
- includes some examples of fats (because my book is short and I can’t expand on this perhaps),
- explains how fats are keto-friendly,
- provides supporting information from a study, and then
- ends with a concluding sentence.
- Well-developed: Every sentence and idea in paragraphs should be well-developed, sufficiently explained, and also supported by details and evidence that all work together. This is how you elaborate on the paragraph’s main idea.
How to Organize a Paragraph
There are a variety of ways to organize a paragraph, and like the ideal paragraph length, this is also very dependent on the content type and your target audience.
Here are a few examples of how you can organize your paragraph:
- Process: Following a sequence, you explain how something works, step by step.
- Description: You describe the idea by providing specific details about it, like how it looks, smells, tastes, feels, and sounds.
- Classification: By classifying, you group items or sub-items and then explain the various classifications.
- Illustration: You provide examples and then elaborate on how these support your main idea.
- Narration: You tell a story. Most commonly, the narration will be chronological, from the beginning till the end.
However, especially in fiction, these chronological rules are murky. You can create a really interesting story by starting at the end and then flashing forward to the start, similar to how some TV show episodes start “12 hours earlier.”
- Contrast and comparison: Highlight and expand on the differences and similarities between two or more ideas, objects, people, places, etc.
- Cause and effect: You write a statement and elaborate on the effects thereof.
What Is the Ideal Paragraph Length?
If you type into the Google search bar “how long should a paragraph be,” you’ll mainly get general results, stating the ideal paragraph length is:
- Between 100 to 200 words
- Not longer than 250 words (however, there are exceptions)
- On average 3 to 5 sentences
- Not measured by words or sentences but rather by your ideas and how well you present these
- When an A4 page accommodates 2 to 3 paragraphs
This is great info, but I’m sure you’d rather get specific information that matches the kind of content you are writing. Before we delve into that, let’s briefly look at the number of sentences there should be in a paragraph. And yes, you have the answer from the bullet list above, but as you can guess, there are exceptions.
How Many Sentences Should There Be in a Paragraph?
If you strictly follow the structure of a paragraph as outlined earlier in this article, you’ll know that your paragraph will likely have quite a few sentences. But what about a paragraph that is only one sentence long? And can one word be a paragraph?
Technically, you can make your paragraph as long or as short as you need it to be to best convey information to your readers. In mostly fiction and SEO content, you’ll find one-word paragraphs. I haven’t used one in the article—yet—but I do like writing just one word in a line and then starting my next paragraph.
Oh, see, there we go.
But back to the why of using a one-word paragraph. Because it adds emphasis and it breaks up walls of text that both online readers and Google despise.
Next, the single-sentence paragraph. It is described as a powerful and useful literary device mostly used in works of fiction and never in non-academic and non-formal business writing. In fiction, a single sentence builds suspense, adds emphasis, changes pace, and helps the reader better visualize and experience what they are reading.
This makes perfect sense, right?
If you write to search-engine optimize your web content, you’ll know your readers prefer short, succinct paragraphs and that sometimes, a one-sentence paragraph is ideal.
If you are interested in learning about how to create the perfect one-sentence paragraph, have a look at this “How to Write a One-Sentence Paragraph” MasterClass.
And even Ernest Hemingway loved using short paragraphs. Check out this video for Hemingway’s writing tips:
Multiple-sentences paragraphs are the “normal” paragraphs you come across, and this is the most common type of paragraph too. This paragraph typically follows the topic-supporting-concluding sentences structure, and as such, comprises a minimum of three sentences.
Content Types & Paragraphs
Your audience, together with the content type, dictates how long your paragraphs should be. Below you will find the ideal paragraph length per content format:
|Ideal Paragraph Length Per Content & Audience|
|Academic Writing||5 to 7 sentences||The standard length of a paragraph is 100 to 200 words. You’ll follow the paragraph structure of introducing the main idea, writing your supporting sentences, and ending off with a concluding sentence.|
|Fiction||Any||Dialogue can be anything from one word to multiple sentences. The way the character speaks should match who they are and this will dictate how long your paragraph is, together with the pacing, what happens in the scene, and the emotions you want to evoke in the reader. Narrative writing can also be anything from one word- to multiple-sentences paragraphs. Your paragraph length should be organic and be in harmony with the storytelling. As such, the length of your paragraph depends on pacing, tone, genre and niche, the setting and scene, mood, theme, etc.|
|Non-Fiction||3 to 5 sentences||Paragraphs in non-fiction should effectively convey knowledge to the reader. Paragraphs should not exceed 200 words.|
|SEO & Web Content||Any||One-word, one-sentence, and multiple-sentences paragraphs are accepted. It is recommended to cap your sentences at 2 to 3 per paragraph.SEO best practices prefer paragraphs of 3 to 4 lines. Main aims are to (1) grab and hold the attention of your reader and (2) engage your reader.Your copy should have lots of white space.|
|Business & Technical Writing||120-125 words or 3 to 6 sentences||A single-spaced paragraph should not exceed ⅓ of an A4 page while a double-spaced paragraph should not go beyond half of an A4 page.Paragraph length is also determined by the document’s format as your document should appear visually pleasing.|
To learn more about writing SEO content that ranks, check out this video by Nathan Gotch:
Tips on Writing Paragraphs Your Readers WANT to Read
I keep reiterating this, but it is only because of how important this fact is: how you craft your paragraphs and the length thereof depends on the content. Related to this is writing paragraphs your readers want to read; however, there are a few tips I can share with you that you must apply no matter your audience or the content format.
Your paragraph should:
- Be to the point, meaning there should be no fluff or unnecessary information
- Paint a clear image for the reader
- Connect logically to the following paragraph
- Be cohesive and relate to your main topic
- Contain a central focus point and set up what information will follow
- Have supporting sentences that convince your readers
Paragraph Writing Prompts
It takes practice to write good paragraphs, and whether you are a newbie writer or a pro, more practice is always a great idea.
To help you practice writing paragraphs, I’ve compiled a paragraph writing challenge for you with 7 days of prompts.
- Choose one new prompt every day.
- Stick to the content type and guidelines for the ideal paragraph length provided in this guide.
- As these are short writing prompts, set a timer for 20 minutes to an hour.
- Think about the content type, your ideal reader, and how you can best represent the information. This will also guide your writing (and the paragraph lengths).
- These are general topics, but you are encouraged to also do a bit of research if you need more guidance.
- After you’ve written your paragraph, ask yourself:
- Does the information flow logically?
- What paragraph structure did I follow?
- Does my paragraph adhere to the 5 key elements of a paragraph (unity, related, order, coherence, and well-developed)?
- Does each paragraph convey just one idea?
|Your 7-Day Paragraph Writing Prompt Challenge!|
|Day||Paragraph Prompt||Content Type||Number of Paragraphs to Write|
|Day 1||On a dinner date, your partner asks, “What is your ideal home?”||General (warm-up activity)||3|
|Day 2||After lunch, your child asks you what your favorite game is and how to play it.||Blog post||2|
|Day 3||Your favorite insect.||Academic/Research||3|
|Day 4||Your pet dragon, the unicorn, and saving the village||Fiction||5|
|Day 5||An introduction to intermittent fasting.||Non-Fiction Book||1|
|Day 6||After time off, your colleagues ask you about your vacation with your family.||Blog post||4|
|Day 7||A holiday you don’t celebrate.||General||1|
Are you ready to tackle this Paragraph Writing Prompt Challenge?
And are you looking for more writing exercises? Have a look at this Reedsy video:
Paragraph Length FAQs
1. How many words make up a paragraph?
In general, your paragraph should have a text range of about 200 words. In these 200 words, you can express the idea in an introductory sentence, write two to three supporting sentences, and then have a concluding sentence to tie up your paragraph’s concept.
2. How many sentences should there be in a paragraph?
There is no rule that states how many sentences should make up a paragraph. You can write as many sentences as you need to convey your idea while also best suiting the content type. As a general rule, paragraphs have at least three to five sentences.
Let’s Paragraph Away
Paragraphs are key building blocks for any piece of content you write. They should be logical, cohesive, and relate to the overall topic of your content—no one wants to read about flooring when they are actually looking for information on the best power tool to fell trees.
The key takeaways on ideal paragraph length are:
- In general, paragraphs are between 100 to 200 words, or 5 to 7 sentences.
- Paragraphs pertain to one key idea or concept that is also related to the overall topic.
- Paragraphs, generally, have a minimum of 3 sentences: topic, supporting, and conclusion.
- One-word paragraphs, as well as one-sentence paragraphs, are acceptable and can be very effective when used correctly—and in the appropriate content form.
- The ideal paragraph length depends on 3 key factors:
- Your audience
- The content type
- How you can best convey the information to the reader
Are you ready to create effective paragraphs for your content? Do you remember what the ideal paragraph lengths are for dialogue, academic/formal writing, and SEO content? Improve your writing with an outline to help you write better paragraphs!