By: Sarah McCarthy
One of the few thing I find myself constantly struggling with is paragraphs, and you might feel the same way, too. It can be hard to remember when a new paragraph should start, or when it’s appropriate to end a paragraph. Many of us were taught about paragraphs in early elementary school, and after that it becomes something you’re just expected to know. Me personally? I tend to forget unused skills easily, so it’s always good to brush up on grammatical basics.
Generally, the paragraphs found in essays and research papers are structured with one idea in each paragraph. This keeps your paper focused and will provide a structured layout for drafting and revising your paper.
When you start a new topic, move on to the next paragraph. This prevents the first paragraph from feeling cluttered, or from overwhelming the reader with too much information at once. If one of your topics spans across more than one paragraph, each new point regarding the topic should have its own paragraph as well.
Writing a short story or novel is a whole other beast. It can be a lot more difficult to know when to start a new paragraph. In creative writing it is important to start a new paragraph when you change perspective, there is a shift in location or setting, when a new character begins speaking, or with a new thought or idea. Long blocks of text intimidate readers and makes it harder for them to process the text, so it’s important to break it up whenever you can.
As a writer however, you are allowed to have as many or as little paragraphs as you think is needed to tell your story.
Paragraphs are your tools as an author to create a tone for your piece of fiction. When an author wants a certain word or phrase to be emphasized, they can give the object of importance its own paragraph. One author might have long, rambling paragraphs that add context to the world or character, while another writes short, clipped paragraphs that resemble prose pieces regarding emotions. Both examples create a different type of tone and provide context to what is important to characters within the story.
Playing around with different kinds of paragraph, in creative and academic writing, can help you find what feels comfortable to work with, and what helps you relay the story you want to tell to the audience. If you feel like you need to make a new paragraph, there is no harm in going ahead and hitting that enter key.