How long or short should a paragraph be? What should it contain? How should the paragraphs in your document link to each other? These are all good questions because, when writing a business report, proposal, letter, email, or any other document, good paragraphing skills are important.
Briefly stated, a paragraph is a group of sentences about one specific idea. This paragraph, for instance, deals with the definition of a paragraph. There is no set length for a paragraph, but, generally, three full sentences is considered the minimum and half a page is considered the maximum.
A paragraph should begin with a topic sentence, that is, a sentence which addresses the subject of the paragraph. It may, as in the first paragraph in this essay, begin with a question. The other sentences in the paragraph should supply information that helps to explain the topic.
Sometimes it is easy to determine when to start a new paragraph—because you have moved from one topic to another. You may have written a large number of sentences about a specific topic, let’s say more than twelve (or more than 200 words). At that point, you may need to ask the question Is this paragraph too long? As has been stated, there is no limit in terms of the number of sentences in a paragraph, but, when a paragraph takes up about half of a page or when it looks like it is too long, then it may be too long. If, upon reading it, you find that the topic has shifted slightly, that is a good place at which to divide the paragraph. For instance, if the topic sentence is how much the business climate has changed during the past twelve months, and, after a number of sentences in which you explain that idea, the topic has shifted to the importance of communication in the workplace, that may the point at which to begin a new paragraph.
Besides knowing when to end a paragraph and when start a new one, you should also develop smooth transitions between paragraphs. Sometimes, this is easy. Phrases such as “In addition to…” or “Conversely….” or “Despite….” are obvious transitional phrases. However, it is not necessary to use a transitional phrase to link a new paragraph to the previous one. Simply repeating a key word that had been used in the previous paragraph works just as well. In this essay, using the word “paragraph” or the phrase “good writing skill” helps in terms of linking paragraphs. In addition, simply writing a topic sentence which spells out that the new paragraph is about a topic that relates to the previous one is an efficient way of creating a transition. An example of that, in that same report about the business climate, would be the following topic sentence: “Of course, one year’s business climate may vary quite a bit from how it had been the year before.”
Good paragraphing is not a science; however, it is a skill that is important in terms of good writing. To sum up, a paragraph is a collection of sentences that refer to the topic sentence. A paragraph is generally at least three sentences long, and should not, if at all possible, exceed half of a page. Transitions between paragraphs lend a fluid smoothness to the finished business document.
Like many other writing skills, understanding the basics is the first step in terms of mastery. Writing with care and proofreading what you have written is a fine way in which to practice writing skills, including paragraphing. After a period of time, you will find that writing solid paragraphs which link to the others in a piece of writing has become routine.