The benefits of strong paragraphing have been previously pointed out in this blog. But the subject is important and deserves repeating.
Paragraphs allow the reader to take a breath while continuing to read. Without them, a reader would face the daunting task of having to read and decide simultaneously when there is a change of thought or subject.
Clear writing flows directly from well composed paragraphing. The effectiveness of any writing will depend directly on how well you have constructed the paragraphs. As further explained below, all paragraphs should be unified in thought, well organized, and coherent.
Paragraphs may be long or short. Moderation and common sense are keys to good paragraphing. If a paragraph is too short, the reader may conclude the writer has given little thought to the writing. If it’s too long, the reader may simply get discouraged.
There are distinct types of writing available for specific purposes, including persuasive, expository, narrative, creative, descriptive, research, and (book) reporting. Paragraphing does not of necessity completely follow the type of writing you are using, but may vary within the main body of the document being written, depending on the context.
Two main groups of paragraphs exist, narrative and descriptive. Other forms of paragraphing may have different identifying labels placed on them, such as chronological, compare and contrast, definition, and others, but it is simpler to place them in one of the two main categories.
For example, a chronological or progressive paragraph is so-called because of its orderly progression from one point to another, often following a time sequence. But it’s still descriptive or narrative in nature. Describing a fishing technique or a golf swing are good examples of the use of such a paragraph. A recipe, which is by nature descriptive, is another example.
As another example, persuasive paragraphing should be used to advocate a position, as follows:
One new law I would like to see enacted this year is one granting equal time for “celebrity puffing,” i.e., an anti- puffing law.
What is “puffing?” It’s a lot of hot air. Like when movie actors such as Robert Redford or Matt Damon try to take advantage of their celebrity status to present their liberal views to the public. A Wall Street Journal article recently reported that Damon and another actor, Ben Affleck, as well as other notables, including Bruce Springsteen and Willie Nelson, have in effect endorsed the philosophy of Howard Zinn, a pro-Leninist historian and one time member of the Communist Party, who died in 2010, by publicly praising him. By law, the public should be allowed to reply to any such public pronouncements by any celebrity. For example, I would say to any celebrity who engages in puffing, “It’s hypocritical of you to use American capitalism to make all your money and acquire celebrity status and then take advantage of that status to foist your liberal (or more radical) views on the public.” An opportunity to speak out in reply should be provided by law. It’s only fair. I for one am not interested in hearing the political views of any celebrity unless there is an opportunity for rebuttal where appropriate. Many media outlets that invite such puffing as news are liberal in their political views and are not interested in allowing any reply. So a one-sided view is presented to the public and it’s often a distortion of the facts.
The foregoing paragraphing guidelines, and more, (with a different example of paragraph advocacy) are contained in my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” available on amazon.com/kindle books and in print. My book, by the way, contains an excellent recipe for Chicken Tetrazzini from the classic Mary and Vincent Price cookbook, “A Treasury of Great Recipes,” now believed to be out of print.
To all of my readers and followers, let me say best wishes for a happy and successful new year!
Copyright 2014. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.