Write Paragraphs For The Web

Paragraph Suggestions

Paragraphs help writers to order and organise their thoughts, give the reader 'rest points' as they work through the text and provide us entry and exit points into documents – shortcuts for navigating around text. On the web, a smaller paragraph is best.

When writing for the web, NYU encourages this:

  • Write clear, simple and effective content. The content of your site should be easy to read for everyone, preferably in a conversational style.

  • Front-load your text. Put the most important content on your page in the first paragraph, so that readers scanning your pages will not miss your main idea.

  • Chunk your content. Cover only one topic per paragraph.

  • Be concise. Write short paragraphs and minimize unnecessary words.

  • Write in active voice instead of passive voice. (Ex: ‘Tim taught the class’, instead of ‘the class was taught by Tim’.)

  • Choose lists over paragraphs. When possible use lists rather than paragraphs to make your content easier to scan.

Smaller is Best

I really like this rule: try to limit your paragraph to five lines — not sentences.

The Yahoo! Style Guide says:

Keep paragraphs short. Two to three sentences is often enough.

A paragraph that looks small is more inviting to web visitors than large chunks of text. We generally like to scan webpages quickly and smaller paragraphs aid that scanability.

Easing the Code

<p>In HTML a paragraph is a chunk of text that sits between P tags like this.</p>

Now, if you write content using a text editor which then gets handed over to a web developer for translation to HTML, try learning Markdown to simplify and clarify your content.

We learned what Markdown headings look like in my last blog.

A paragraph in Markdown is defined as:

A paragraph is simply one or more consecutive lines of text, separated by one or more blank lines. (A blank line is any line that looks like a blank line — a line containing nothing but spaces or tabs is considered blank.) Normal paragraphs should not be indented with spaces or tabs.

This is a paragraph in Markdown. Notice the blank lines separating it.

This is a second paragraph.

As you can see, it's very easy to write a paragraph in Markdown without having to really understand HTML. Your web developer will understand how to translate this to proper HTML5.

Free Tip

Write small for the web. Short and concise will make your visitors happy.

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