I’m in a teaching mood today, so I have decided to share with you my thoughts on paragraph writing. And no, this sudden propensity for wisdom-dispensing has nothing to do with the fact that I have a project due and I don’t want to work on it. Stop judging me!
Paragraph Tip #1 — Long paragraph is loooooong
You know what’s super annoying to read? Really long paragraphs. I’ve picked up so many books that have paragraphs last a page or more, and when I see this, I can’t help but think, “Why? Why you do this?”
I’ll prove my point. Read the following paragraph:
They ran towards me, screaming that the building was going to collapse in mere minutes. I didn’t believe them. I knew for a fact that the donut library in the basement was built on extremely strong foundations that would stand up against even the harshest of earthquakes. Still, nothing is ever set in stone — well, except for the foundations of the donut library. Anyway, I decided that I should take the threat seriously, and considered my options. Flailing my arms and panicking seemed like a good choice. Then I remembered the sabre enthusiast club up on the fiftieth floor. They wouldn’t know about the evacuation. Someone had to help them. That someone, I decided, would be me. I raced for the elevator and hit the button. The doors slid open, and I stepped inside. When I reached the fiftieth floor, I emerged from the elevator and shouted for everyone to follow me down the ground floor. But I was ignored. Everyone was too busy swinging their sabres around to hear me. Desperate to get their attention, I seized a discarded sabre from the floor and leaped into the fray. Knocking aside sabres left and right, I bellowed for them to listen to me, to evacuate before they all perished. Finally, they listened. Like a mindless stampede they raced for the elevator, failing to understand that seventy people could not fit into a single elevator. “Don’t be fools!” I shouted, racing to cut them off before they started squishing each other to death. “We have time! Just wait your turn!” The herd calmed, and through my organizational efforts I managed to get them all safely down to the ground floor. As the last of the sabre enthusiasts tromped out the door, I realized that the building wasn’t collapsing. It wasn’t even shaking. All the panic had been for nothing. I shook my head at my own foolishness. Then I went down to the donut library and checked out a sprinkle donut and a chocolate glazed donut. They were delicious.
That was a stupidly long paragraph. If you managed to get all the way through it, then kudos. The only reason I got through it is because I wrote the darn thing.
In conclusion, keep your paragraphs short. Otherwise your readers will fall asleep and drool all over your book, and as everyone knows, drool stains are like crack for bookworms. And no one likes bookworms.
Paragraph Tip #2 — Conversation: you’re doing it wrong
In this tip, we explore the glorious phenomenon that is an entire conversation between two people taking place in a single paragraph. Because I like writing examples, here’s one to illustrate what I’m talking about:
“Yo yo, G-skillet,” said Mary. “What up dawg?” said John. “Not a whole lot, my homey,” said Mary. “I dunno ’bout you, but I got a mad urge to go do assorted activities that people of our demographic enjoy.” “Dude, me too! We’re like, totally hip.” “Yo, fo sho,” said Mary.
My inability to capture the authentic dialogue patterns of today’s urban youth aside, the main problem with that horrendous excuse for writing is the fact that two different people were talking in the same paragraph. Do you know who was saying what? No? Of course not. That’s because you always, always, always start a new paragraph when someone new speaks.
Let’s apply liberal use of the Enter key and see if we can’t fix up that conversation, shall we?
“Yo yo, G-skillet,” said Mary.
“What up dawg?” said John.
“Not a whole lot, my homey,” said Mary. “I dunno ’bout you, but I got a mad urge to go do assorted activities that people of our demographic enjoy.”
“Dude, me too! We’re like, totally hip.”
“Yo, fo sho,” said Mary.
See how much better that is? Now we know that it’s John, and not Mary, who thinks that they’re totally hip. If we do some mental stretching, we might even deduce that Mary is far more self-aware than she appears to be. In fact, Mary is actually a hipster journalist who has infiltrated a street gang in order to uncover their secrets and write a biting exposé on their daily doings.
Isn’t it amazing what we can discover when we break up our dialogue properly?
Paragraph Tip #3 — In Soviet Russia, Topic Stays On You
For those of you unfamiliar with the In Soviet Russia meme, I am somewhat ineptly attempting to explain that every individual paragraph should have one topic. One topic. Not two topics. Not seventeen bajillion topics. One.
Of all graceful and magnificent creatures on this great green earth, poodles are truly the most extraordinary. One need only catch a glimpse of their lustrous curly locks as they prance through the grasslands to reach that one, sublime truth: that poodles are physical embodiments of joy. The labrador retriever is the most popular dog in the continental United States. With their fancy footwork and stylish haircuts, poodles cut a striking image wherever they go. Little girls squeal at their approach. Grown men pretend nonchalance whilst secretly wishing they could be as graceful as these canine marvels. Poodles are not just our salvation; they are a way of life.
Did you catch the off-topic sentence? That’s right, it was the sentence about the labrador retriever. This paragraph is about the majesty of poodles, dammit! If the labs want to be praised, they can find their own damn paragraph.
What do you think?
Got any more paragraph-writing tips? Disagree with mine? Agree that poodles are the most glorious creatures in the universe? Sound off in the comments!
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Explanation of Humor: Juxtaposition is amusing.