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Don’t forget paragraph breaks

Posted by Maria Murnane | March 10, 2014

I recently received an email from a new subscriber to my newsletter. The message was quite long and didn’t contain a single paragraph break – not one. I found myself confused as I read, because the various points he was making began to blur together into an enormous block of text.

Paragraph breaks help keep your readers engaged

Somewhere in his message the man mentioned that he is an aspiring novelist, so when I replied to thank him for getting in touch, I also gently suggested that in future correspondence he employ paragraph breaks to keep the recipient’s interest from straying. I even included a smiley face so he would know I was trying to be helpful, not mean.

He didn’t listen.

Over the next couple of days, he sent me three or four more emails, each one a massive paragraph that had me squinting at my computer screen. And when I say “massive,” I mean longer than this entire blog post. I don’t think I even finished reading the last message, because I just couldn’t take it anymore. He is a very pleasant man, and clearly very bright, but his writing is weighed down by this one tic that unfortunately overshadows the intended meaning of his words. If this is the impact the tic has on a few emails to me, I can only imagine what it’s doing to the novel he’s working on.

The lesson here is this: Whether it’s an email to a friend or a scene in your novel, keep the reader in mind as you write. Breaking up text not only allows the most salient points to have their chance in the spotlight, it also keeps your readers from losing focus – and interest.

-Maria


This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2014 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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2 Responses to “Don’t forget paragraph breaks”

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  • Clint Jarvis says:

    Dear Maria Murnane,
    I just wanted to say that I totally agree with you on the subject of paragraph breaks. Some emails are downright jumbled by the simple fact that the writer didn’t put in one single ‘break’.
    We try to teach our children to write emails as if they were writing a formal letter. Even if the email is just to a friend or relative about something trivial. “It’s just good practice”, we say.
    I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your many ‘blogs’ in the createspace newsletter. Your insights and suggestions always seem to hit home for us. The lack of arrogance, and self importance in your blogs is refreshing; and makes your advice that much more valid. It’s very appreciated.
    I just found this site of yours, and am sure I’ll be back for more honest advice and open opinions. :)

    Thank you again, Clint Jarvis

    PS:Please feel free to checkout my blog and tell me your opinion of it via my gmail, if you’d like to that is.

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