When you think about a paragraph, what do you picture? Is it a long, unreadable block of text? Your high school English teacher teaching you where to put a thesis statement? Or maybe you’re so busy that you hardly have time to read anything longer than a tweet.
Love them or hate them, paragraphs are the building blocks of long-form writing. If you’re copywriting to promote your business, you need to know how to use paragraphs.
You’re reading part of our Copywriting for Beginners class, a series about the nuts and bolts of copywriting, aimed at people who aren’t professional writers. In our last lesson, we covered how to use punctuation to communicate your ideas and promote your business. In this lesson, we’ll break down one of the most basic structures in copywriting: the paragraph.
What is a paragraph, how long should it be, and how can you use paragraphs to communicate clearly with your audience? Keep reading to find out!
What Is a Paragraph?
A paragraph is a group of sentences that are visually and thematically connected. They’re set apart from other paragraphs by line breaks, spaces, or indentations. The sentences in a paragraph are all about a single topic or idea.
We mark paragraphs with indents and line breaks. Indentations are more common in print media, where it’s important to save space, while line breaks are popular in digital media. The difference between these types of paragraphs is purely aesthetic. They both accomplish the same goal of dividing the text into easy-to-read sections.
Take a moment to imagine what reading copy would be like without paragraphs. You’d scroll through a seemingly endless block of text with no landmarks or cues helping you along. All the ideas would run together, and you’d almost certainly lose your place. Most people wouldn’t bother trying to read something so tedious.
Paragraphs give your readers visual cues that help them keep their places. They keep the text from being boring and unreadable, and they help communicate ideas by linking related sentences.
In short, paragraphs help you follow two of the most important rules of copywriting: don’t confuse your audience, and don’t be boring.
Paragraphs in Copywriting vs. Academic Writing
You might be thinking, “Sigl copywriters, I know how to write a paragraph. Mrs. Smith taught me in 9th grade English.”
We’re sure Mrs. Smith did a great job of teaching you how to write for academic and creative writing. But she didn’t teach you copywriting, and that’s the skill you need to promote your business.
Your high school paragraph lessons probably went something like this:
- Start the paragraph with an interesting hook to draw in your reader.
- Expound on the hook and move from a broad idea to a more specific statement. Use evidence from your text to support your claims.
- End the paragraph with a super-specific thesis statement or conclusion.
Unfortunately, these rules don’t work for copywriting.
Here’s the thing: Mrs. Smith read every single sentence you wrote. If you were to publish an essay in an academic journal, you’d expect your readers not to skip from place to place.
In copywriting, you should never assume people will read every word.
Copywriting is a constant fight for your reader’s attention. They have a million other brands vying for their eyes through multiple mediums. At best, assume your reader is only reading the first sentence of every paragraph, and maybe a few bolded phrases or bullet points.
Don’t bury the lede. Your thesis statement (or whatever important message you want your readers to remember) should not be hidden at the end of a long paragraph.
Paragraph Length: Don’t Overdo It
Paragraph length in digital media is a little tricky to define. 3 lines on a Google Doc might become 2 lines on your website and 8 lines on a mobile device. You can’t control what browser, device, margins, or text settings your audience uses. But you can control your copy and do your best to make it accessible to as many people as possible.
We at Sigl have found it best to stick to 2–3 lines of text in your word processor. This sweet spot is easy to read on almost any device. Paragraphs of this size take up about a single phone screen and a couple of lines on a computer.
Don’t let your paragraphs get more than 5 lines long in your word processor. Your mobile audience may have to scroll to finish the paragraph. Long blocks of text are intimidating and hard to read on any device. If you have a particularly stubborn paragraph that threatens to spill into 6 or more lines, look for a logical break between sentences and see if creating a new paragraph will make your copy clearer.
And don’t underestimate the power of a single-line paragraph. Reserve these zingers for your most impactful sentences. They’re most effective when placed in between longer paragraphs to make them stand out.
Tips and Tricks of the Trade
Variety is key. You want to be as clear as possible without being monotonous.
If your copy is starting to look like a repetitive wall of 3–5 line paragraphs, there are lots of ways you can shake things up.
- Bold, underline, or italicize (or all 3!) your most powerful phrases.
- Bold, recolor, or enlarge the most important words, especially proper nouns and brand or product names.
- Turn some of your best sentences into single-line paragraphs.
- Add bullet points and numbered lists where applicable.
- Use subheadings to add another layer of organization to your copy.
Do some of these tricks sound familiar? It’s because we use them all the time! Yep, just look back at this blog post and see how many you can find.
Use your best judgment when it comes to variety in paragraph length and style. If your page looks a little too busy, remove some of the bolding or bullet lists. As you practice copywriting, you’ll develop a good instinct for how much pizzazz is appropriate. Like all trades, copywriting is a skill that takes practice.
You’re a business owner first, so we understand if you don’t get very excited at the thought of paragraph length and structure. That’s what the Sigl copywriters are here for. Schedule a call and let our team of writers help you create clear, interesting copy that gets your audience excited about your brand.