Recently, I was thinking about the qualities of blogs I enjoy reading and considering how I can adopt those qualities into my own writing on behalf of clients. You know, picking up blogging tips from the bloggers I enjoy reading. Well, low and behold, I realized one quality that almost always gets me to hit the back button: long paragraphs.
As someone who does the majority of their not-work-related online reading on a mobile device, I might be a little extra sensitive about paragraph length. But, I’m not alone. Of the 100+ billion searches Google gets every month, over half of them come from mobile devices. And when you’re working with a mobile screen, paragraphs can seem a whole lot longer.
This Isn’t About Content Length
I’m a firm believer that content should be as long as it needs to be. If you can get the job done in less than 250 words, great. If you need 2,000+ words to tell your story, tell it that way. But, if I’m reading on a 5.1-inch screen and a single paragraph seems to scroll on without an end in sight, I’m probably out.
This is About Paragraph Length
While this piece was inspired by one of those “this annoys me" kind of moments, I thought it might be cooler to support it with something a little more grounded. So here are my top three reasons why your paragraphs should be shorter.
1. Online Readers Are Scanners
Before committing to actually reading a piece of online content many users (myself included) will give the content a quick scan for relevance. 55 percent of website visitors only spend 15 seconds on a webpage, and using shorter paragraphs can convince them to stick around instead of bouncing.
Further, those shortened paragraphs make it easier for visitors to scan your content to see if it’s relevant to them. My inner dialogue usually goes in one of these three directions:
Yes, I want to read this.
No, I don’t want to read this.
I’m not sure if I want to read this, but figuring it out is taking too long.
In option number three, it’s entirely likely that I would’ve found valuable information on the webpage, but the way it was displayed made it unappealing.
2. Shorter Paragraphs Act as Encouragement
Readers sometimes need a little encouragement to get through a piece of content and providing short, digestible paragraphs can do just that. If you look at news articles – especially those which occur in both digital and print forms – you’ll find short paragraphs. That’s because newspapers have known for a long time that having shorter paragraphs increases the odds that a reader will make it to the end of an article.
3. Readers Like White Space
It’s true in design, and it’s true in writing: readers like white space. Readers find white space refreshing, and an even more powerful benefit of white space is that it helps readers to keep their place in the text.
When you use shorter paragraphs and allow for some literal space between your ideas, your readers will thank you – probably not by literally saying “thank you,” but more people will read your content which is a compliment in and of itself.
I love language and all the power it wields. Perfectly placed punctuation and artfully used alliteration brighten my eyes and bring joy to my heart. As Lead Writer, I ensure the ideas, visions, and goals of our clients are able to reach their intended audience. Articulating complex ideas and representing them honestly, ethically, and artistically is something I consistently strive toward. When I’m not solving the world’s tiniest problems with concise word choice, you can find me enjoying nature, practicing yoga, and expanding my knowledge of human nature – sometimes all three at once.