What Is the Best Length Of A Paragraph?

As children, we quickly learned writing a paragraph requires some advance planning, and without proper structure, paragraphs can end up overly long or choppy. Although there really isn’t a required number of sentences to make a paragraph, there are some guidelines you might want to consider.

Paragraphs are meant to express a central idea, and they can be composed of any number of sentences as long as they meet the structural requirements. The basic structure of a paragraph has three parts: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. The introduction includes a main topic sentence and any additional sentences needed to provide background information. The body of the paragraph generally includes facts or examples to support the topic. The conclusion, or final section of a paragraph, often echoes the idea presented in the introduction, and provides a bridge to the next paragraph. Writers and teachers typically advise that a properly structured paragraph consists of three to six sentences.

What about single-sentence paragraphs?

Historically, some writers have used long single-sentence paragraphs to express a single thought. For example, the opening paragraph of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities is one sentence: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness …” This long, single-sentence paragraph summarizes the main issue in the book, setting the tone for the rest of the epic tale.

Contemporary writers use single-sentence paragraphs to catch the reader’s attention or to create emphatic moments in a story. Single-sentence paragraphs can also be used for dialogue, to summarize events, and to highlight key changes in a story. (Single-sentence books also exist: we salute the authors who boldly attempt writing these!)

How should I structure multiple-sentence paragraphs?

Varying the lengths of your paragraphs helps create balance while maintaining the reader’s interest. Each sentence in a paragraph should relate to the main point. Each paragraph should also only be as long as it needs to be in order to explain its point.

You can use a few different techniques to maintain a consistent tone within and between paragraphs. One is to repeat key words and similar grammatical structures. Another is to use transition sentences. The job of a transition sentence is to seamlessly take the reader from one paragraph to another. It often begins a new paragraph, and comes before the next topic sentence.

There’s no hard rule regarding how many sentences need to be in a paragraph. Most tend to have between three and six. The Franklin Covey Style Guide recommends avoiding paragraphs that take up one-third of a single-spaced page or one-half of a double-spaced page. Nonetheless, it’s entirely up to you.