In the last part of this series you learned about the misuse of adverbs and adjective, and about the importance of composing powerful headings and subheadings. In this part you will learn how constructing paragraphs for the web differs from how paragraphs for the print media are constructed.
Depending on what expert you talk to, or what style book you check, there are many different rules to follow when constructing a paragraph. When writing for the web, the only rule that you have to remember is that there really aren’t any rules. Our ultimate guide when constructing paragraphs for the web is that we want them to appear attractive on the computer screen and hinges on the length of your paragraphs.
No Ideal Paragraph Length
Although the ideal length for a web article is between 500-600 words and never over 1000 words, there is no ideal word count for a paragraph. The length of a paragraph depends on many factors. It is determined by what you are writing about, your writing style, and your tone.
The tabloids made each sentence into a paragraph of no more than ten or twelve words. That style fitted the tabloids narrow columns and staccato approach to reporting the news. Newspapers like The New York Times, on the other hand, leaned towards paragraphs of 50 to 60 words. In school we learned to write essays consisting of paragraphs that ran 100 words or more in length. For the web, shorter is always better.
Shorter is Always Better
Large blocks of text discourage the web reader quicker than almost anything else. Short paragraphs with a lot of white space appears far more inviting to the web reader.
Use Simple Sentences
As we all learned in school there are basically three types of sentences-simple sentences, compound sentences, and complex sentences. The Simple sentence, consisting of a verb, a subject and sometimes an object, is the easiest to understand. The Compound sentence is nothing more than two simple sentences joined together using a conjunction and therefore relatively easy to understand. Complex sentences include dependent clauses and can become quite convoluted.
Use simple sentences, and, when necessary, use compound sentences when writing for the web. Avoid using complex sentences. Your objective as a web writer is to convey useful information to your readers. Your objective as a web writer is not to dazzle your reader with how well you can construct complex, convoluted sentences. Some novelists like Dostoyevsky, Faulkner, and Proust had a gift for penning long, really sentences. One of their sentences could run for several pages. Let’s leave those kinds of sentences to them. Remember, we are writing web articles, we aren’t writing “War and Peace.”
Using Sentence Fragments
Contrary to what we were all taught in grammar school, high school and college, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using sentence fragments and one word sentences. They are good for variety and for emphasis.
An editor for Apedantic magazine once berated an author for his use of sentence fragment and for his use of one word sentences. The editor asked the author, “Do you really think you can use single-word sentences whenever you feel like it?” To that question the author responded with a one word sentence, “yes.”
In the real world all rules are made to be broken, but you have to learn the rules before you can break the effectively.
Look for a Model
Writers are prolific readers. They read widely and not just in the genre they write in. Every successful writer models his style on the styles of authors they like. You, as an aspiring web writer need to surf the web and read other successful web writers construct their articles. The idea here is not to copy their styles, but to take a little from each style and combine to form a style of your own.
In part 4 of this series we will discuss plagiarism and how to avoid it.