How Many Sentences Are In A Paragraph?

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It is the question many writers have pondered and tons have failed to answer accurately:

How long is a paragraph?

Your primary school teacher may have told you that one paragraph should contain no more than 5-6 sentences. Others might have later told you it shouldn’t be more than 200 words.

But are these rules valid on the internet? And is length even an accurate measurement of a ‘good’ paragraph?

In this article, I will share some guidelines to help you decide the length of your paragraphs. You’ll also learn when these guidelines can be disobeyed and a few common paragraph writing mistakes to avoid. Let’s get started.

Table of Contents

Guidelines For Writing A Paragraph

For answering the burning question, “how many sentences does a paragraph have?”, here’s a three-point checklist you can follow.

Of course, no point on the list is hard and fast — and applicable 100% of the time. Bend these “rules” as you need – especially when you are trying out new and creative endeavors in your writing practice

1. Aim For 3-5 Sentences Per Paragraph

Yep 3-5 is the number of sentences in a paragraph you can *generally* shoot for.

However this guideline is often broken in various forms of writing — and even appreciated by the reader.

For example, news writers frequently only write one sentence per paragraph for greater impact, and the effect is truly welcomed.

Take, for instance, the BBC news article’s snapshot below about India’s mission to Mars. There are multiple paragraphs with only one sentence, and the piece holds its ground beautifully.

However, in most forms of writing, your teachers weren’t wrong in telling you to stick to an ideal 3-5 sentences per paragraph. The true motive behind this rule is to enhance the readability of your paragraphs and improve their effectiveness.

On the internet, I wouldn’t read a blog with the paragraphs’ length being 8-10 sentences. In a novel, I would.

So how many sentences does a paragraph need?

Well it’s based on your audience’s preferences and the platform you are writing for. 

And hey, the answer to “how many lines should a paragraph have?” is also the same. Typically, while writing for the web don’t go beyond 3-4 lines in a paragraph. But if you’re writing for a different platform, possibly shooting for up to 8 lines can also work.

2. Have A Definite Structure In Your Paragraphs Here

Even here, the academicians came to the rescue. They were right in telling us to have one topic (or controlling idea) per paragraph – beginning with a topic sentence, facts/examples supporting that core idea, and a concluding sentence.

A screenshot that highlights the topic sentence, facts/examples and the conclusion in a paragraph.

Again, this isn’t a magic formula for writing all your paragraphs. It isn’t ideal or even possible to have every paragraph with this structure. But, aim for it most of the time. It will give your paragraphs an aesthetic proportion, natural flow, and smoothness.

3. Make The Transition From One Paragraph To the Next Smooth

Tie up the loose ends in your paragraph with great care. One paragraph should ideally blend perfectly into the next. Otherwise, the next paragraph might come as a surprise and seem off-track. Often transitions are natural conclusions to one core idea or conjunctions that relate the previous paragraph to the next one.

Paragraph Writing Mistakes To Avoid

Apart from following the rules, you also need to keep an eye on common mistakes you might make. These are avoidable, simple to catch, but often overlooked.

1. More Than One Controlling Idea in One Paragraph

It can be confusing for readers to have more than one idea. If your paragraph talks about two or three controlling topics, consider eliminating sentences related to the second idea, and putting it in another paragraph. Overly complicated paragraphs also might lose your reader’s attention.

Consider this horrendous paragraph with multiple controlling ideas jumbled up together: 

August is my favorite month of the year. December is too cold and May too hot. If you talk about days, I love the Thursday of every week. Especially because of the closeness to Friday and the distance from Monday. The month of August passes so fast, I wish I could catch it for a little while longer. The leaves are my favorite. Especially in the evenings.

A better way would be to split the paragraph in two:

August is my favorite month of the year. December can be too cold and May is too hot to be excited. But – August, it is perfect. The leaves are my favorite – especially in the evenings when the sun is setting. August passes so fast, I wish I could catch it for a little while longer. And if you talk about days, nothing beats Thursday. It is closest to Friday and farthest from Monday — it is the thing I love most about Thursday!

Now the paragraph makes much more sense and the transition only seems to add to the flow. Talk about only one thing in one paragraph – it is the easiest way to enhance your writing’s readability.

It can be confusing for readers to have more than one idea. If your paragraph talks about two or three controlling topics, consider eliminating sentences related to the second idea, and putting it in another paragraph. Overly complicated paragraphs also might lose your reader’s attention.

Consider this horrendous paragraph with multiple controlling ideas jumbled up together: 

August is my favorite month of the year. December is too cold and May too hot. If you talk about days, I love the Thursday of every week. Especially because of the closeness to Friday and the distance from Monday. The month of August passes so fast, I wish I could catch it for a little while longer. The leaves are my favorite. Especially in the evenings.

A better way would be to split the paragraph in two:

August is my favorite month of the year. December can be too cold and May is too hot to be excited. But – August, it is perfect. The leaves are my favorite – especially in the evenings when the sun is setting. August passes so fast, I wish I could catch it for a little while longer. And if you talk about days, nothing beats Thursday. It is closest to Friday and farthest from Monday — it is the thing I love most about Thursday!

Now the paragraph makes much more sense and the transition only seems to add to the flow. Talk about only one thing in one paragraph – it is the easiest way to enhance your writing’s readability. 

2. Uneasy Transition to The Next Paragraph

Sometimes transitions are helpful within a single paragraph to account for an easy read. To ensure a logical progression between paragraphs, use single words or short phrases that relate a paragraph to the previous one. 

Consider this paragraph about books:

“The reason I love books is that it engages so many of my senses – I am not just reading through my eyes, I can feel the sounds presented by the author in my ear, and can almost taste the boiling tea in my mouth. It feels too hot. 

What movies might miss is capturing me into the picture and transporting me to somewhere I am not. I cannot live multiple lives through movies, but by books, it seems I do.” 

While the two paragraphs above are related, the reader cannot grasp how one idea jumped to the next. Consider this, where the transition is much smoother:

The reason I love books is that it engages so much of my senses – I am not just reading through my eyes, I can feel the sounds presented by the author in my ear, and can almost taste the boiling tea in my mouth. It feels too hot. It feels like I am living multiple lives from my sofa as I browse the pages. 

And this is what the movies miss. They don’t capture my senses and transport me into another world, another life. Here, I can’t live multiple lives.

Now, wasn’t that much better?

The relationship between one paragraph and the next is crucial in ensuring a logical flow to your ideas. Each paragraph should show how it relates to the broader argument.

3. Lack Of A Core Idea In The Paragraph

A structure (as discussed in point 2 of the Rules) ensures that your paragraph is not all over the place. A paragraph with no controlling idea can get messy and confuse your readers. 

Consider the same example we used in point 1: 

“August is my favorite month of the year. December is too cold and May too hot. If you talk about days, I love the Thursday of every week. Especially because of the closeness to Friday and the distance from Monday. The month of August passes so fast, I wish I could catch it for a little while longer. The leaves are my favorite. Especially in the evenings.”

It is unclear what the author is talking about here. Is it about a favorite month, or a favorite day, or the relation between them? Splitting them into two like done in point 1, ensures that the paragraph maintains one topic and smoothly relates to the paragraph that follows. 

Conclusion

Paragraphs can be your best friends to hold your reader’s attention. Use it to your advantage by following simple rules:

  • aiming for only 3-5 sentences/paragraph, 
  • having a definite structure, and a smooth transition,
  • and avoiding common mistakes: lack of a core idea in the paragraph or having too many, and an uneasy transition from one paragraph to the next. 

What are the struggles you face while deciding the length of a paragraph? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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I'm a staff writer at Elite Content Marketer and a closet poet. When not whipping up high-quality SaaS content, I'm writing bookish essays on my website, rochizalani.com, and chatting with my newsletter community. She believes there’s nothing that can’t be cured by some fresh poetry and a F.R.I.E.N.D.S episode.

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