How To Use Paragraph Breaks Properly

Using proper paragraph breaks isn't just a matter of obeying some arbitrary rule imposed by stuffy scholars somewhere. Without paragraph breaks - spaces between chunks of text in a written work - potential readers will find themselves facing an imposing wall of text that most won't even bother trying to hurdle. What's more, if they lose focus on the page such as if they have to look away from the page for any reason (or even if their eyes wander as they process and reflect on what they've just read) it makes it much harder to find and pick up where they left off. Also, most people just don't have the concentration or patience to try and read through one long mega-paragraph in one go.

Thus, breaking your story up into manageable chunks is vitally important if you want to retain your readers. Here's how you do it.

Start a new paragraph every time someone else starts speaking.

Pretty self-explanatory. No more than one speaker per paragraph. If you're in a chat that doesn't allow multi-paragraphed posts, you can add something like (continued) to the end of your post to indicate that you aren't done.

Start a new paragraph whenever there is a jump in time and/or location.

And start these paragraphs with something to give a sense of when and/or where we are. For example:

(Thus, it's never necessary to use things like **FLASHBACK!**, *SCENE CHANGE* or ~~~TIME SKIP~~~. As these types of announcements can be jarring to read and thus break both mood and immersion, avoid them.)

Start a new paragraph whenever the topic or subject changes.

For example, if you were describing the layout of a house, and each room in the house was a subject unto itself, you'd put a paragraph break between each room, like so:

The spacious kitchen had walls painted in shell pink, and the floors were tiled with pale blue, green, and yellow stones. The light wood counters and center island were topped with white granite, over which copper kettles hung from a rack. A balloon valance with a pastel pink cherry print hung over the window.

The living room had dark green carpeting and tan-colored walls with dark wood wainscoting. A wooden-framed sofa with brown cushions sat opposite a fireplace made from rough, colorful stones, and a chandelier made from deer antlers hung from the ceiling. A messy pile of home and crafting related magazines sat on the rough wooden coffee table.

The master bedroom was done in a style very similar to the living room, with a rough wooden bed covered in an old-fashioned quilt. Leaf-print curtains hung from large windows that overlooked the backyard, and beyond that, the lake.

However, if the intent was to give a brief overall impression of the house itself and detailed descriptions weren't really necessary at the time, you might put it all into one paragraph like so:

The kitchen was spacious and done in light, airy colors; the living room had an earthy, rustic look to it; and the master bedroom's style matched that of the living room.

(Of course, one detail the rooms more thoroughly later on when and if specific details became more important to the story!)

So there you have it. Start a new paragraph whenever someone else starts speaking, whenever the time and/or location changes, and whenever the topic or subject changes.

You might also be interested in:

A Proper Punctuation Primer
Commonly Misspelled Words & Mangled Phrases
On Showing vs. Telling
Writing Better Prompts, Starters, & Beginnings: A Few Pointers
Exercises To Improve Your Character Writing & Roleplaying Skills
Common, Yet Terrible Character Descriptors - And How To Fix Them (And Write Better Descriptions In General)
Tips For Describing & Summarizing Your Story & Pitching Your Plot Ideas
General Roleplaying Tips & Advice

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