Much depends on whether you consider yourself to be a "purist" or an "adventurer" in your writing style. For our purposes as practical communicators however, consider the guidelines below:
- Start a new paragraph whenever your writing flow moves toward a new meaning - however slight the change in subject matter.
- In general, aim to keep the length of your paragraphs short. Paragraphs of fewer than about 5 or 6 lines can help your reader absorb what you're saying more easily.
- When writing content for web pages, sometimes even shorter paragraphs of about 2 - 4 lines can offer a better option. Why: your web pages may be read by users with a smart phone or small screen tablet device. On smaller devices, even paragraphs of 2 or 3 lines can wrap to take up most or all of the small screen reading space.
- Do also remember that the ideal length for a paragraph depends on the purpose of the document you're writing. For example, a web page designed to sell or persuade may be more successful if the paragraphs are kept to under 4 lines.
Whereas when writing an article-type web page, you may consider paragraphs of up to about 6 lines may be acceptable when working with narrower columns of up to about 10 cm / 4 inches.
- Depending on the context of your writing theme, paragraphs considered by your readers to be too short can appear "light" in terms of content value, whereas those that take up half of a page, come with a high risk of boring your reader, or simply skipped, remaining unread. Key tip: look for balance.
- To determine suitable paragraph length, first write your content focusing on getting your thoughts recorded. Then decide how best to spread your information across your paragraphs. Take into account the width of your columns, the theme of your document and expectations of your readers or listeners.
Key tip: consider the symmetry, energy, punch, vigor and desired impact that your writing delivers. If how your document is received is particularly crucial, you can run a brief test using a two or three options - short-, medium-, and longer-length paragraphs - then ask your test readers for feedback to determine which writing sample they like best.