How to Write Great Paragraphs

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    There are eight million posts on how to write a great headline, how to write a fantastic call to action, and how to write a good blog post.

    We’ll even tell you how to write shorter sentences, snappier copy and better ebooks.

    But you know what none of us tell you?

    How to write the actual content.

    It’s not enough to create killer headlines or spectacular introductions. Content that’s worth reading, sharing, and coming back to isn’t about how it starts or ends, but rather how it unfolds.

    In other words, great content comes from knowing how to write great paragraphs.

    But that isn’t sexy!

    I know, I know. Paragraphs aren’t glamorous at all. No one cares about the poor things, regardless of how essential they are. They’re not a cool hack or snazzy technique, and there’s no app for them.

    Great paragraphs come from plain, old-fashioned grammar school. How lame is that?

    Here’s why a seamless paragraph matters so much to your writing

    Your readers take in every single word you say.

    Not just the words in the bullet points. Not just the words in the numbered lists. Not just the headlines or the sub-headlines or the compelling calls to action. Readers won’t skim your content looking for “the good stuff.” It’s all good stuff.

    Wait a second, you say. Shouldn’t you break up content with bullet points and numbered lists? Isn’t that what people actually read? Aren’t online readers notorious for scanning past the paragraphs?

    Yeah, they are. Because they weren’t that interested in the paragraphs that came before the bullet points in the first place..

    People think those paragraphs are just fillers. We’ve trained them to think that—because filler is what most people put between those bullet points.

    No one cares about crafting a good paragraph. Readers might as well go ahead and scan, because we’ve given them no real reason not to.

    Everyone’s focusing on the stuff that sticks out.

    Readers will read… if it’s worth their while.

    Many bloggers and content marketers assume that scanning is just what people do. They don’t bother with honing their paragraphs the way they refine their headlines and bullet points, because they figure no one will read the paragraphs anyway.

    But that’s a big assumption.

    Think about that one blogger or writer whose work you read religiously—I know you have one. We all have one. You get excited when you see a new article hit your inbox because you love the way this person writes. You probably read that post more than once, and you might even save it.

    You’re not reading for the headline. You’re not reading for the bullet points, or the nugget of brand-new, secret-insider knowledge. You’re reading for the words, and you don’t consider any of them “filler,” no matter how long the piece.

    Which means that person—that author, that blogger—is most likely a killer paragraph writer.

    Are paragraphs starting to sound a little sexier now? They should. Who doesn’t want to be one of those people whose readers hang on their every word?

    No one, that’s who. So let’s get started.

    1. Great Paragraphs Leave No Sentence Behind

    There’s an old marketing adage that goes like this: The purpose of the first sentence is to get the reader to read the second sentence. The purpose of the second sentence is to get them to read the third sentence. And so on.

    This is true, but it’s the “and so on” part most people forget to pay attention to. They focus on the first sentence or the second, and their interest starts to drop off after the fourth or fifth. Sentence thirty-six isn’t doing a thing to keep readers moving forward, but they leave it in there because they think it doesn’t matter that much.

    It matters. Every single sentence matters.

    If you have a sentence in your paragraph that isn’t actively moving readers to the next one, chop it out. It’s doing nothing for you—or for your paragraph.

    2. Good Paragraphs Form a Chain of Thought

    You don’t have to create a paragraph to adhere to the marketing adage I mentioned above. We could just snag a handful of best headlines and stick ’em in a row, and that would satisfy the “get the reader to read the next sentence” rule.

    Is your tribe holding you down? You could increase your blog subscription rate by 254%. Eminem can teach you how to become a writing and marketing machine. Let’s talk 50 can’t-fail techniques for finding great blog topics.

    Those are some of Copyblogger’s most popular post titles, and they’re undeniably compelling headlines. But while they satisfy the “get the reader to read the next sentence rule,” they don’t relate to one another. The second sentence has nothing to do with the first sentence.

    Midway through reading that crazy paragraph, you were starting to wonder about the follow-up. You read the first sentence with the expectation that the second would expand further on the thought—and when it turned out to be an equally fine but unrelated sentence, you got confused, frustrated and bored.

    That’s why every sentence in a paragraph has to refer back to the one before it.

    And if it’s a new paragraph, it has to refer back to the last sentence of the previous paragraph. Your very first paragraph will refer back to your headline. Your headline introduces the idea in the first place, which means you’re going to want to make it as spectacular as possible—because everything you write afterward will depend on that one idea—and make a bunch of points to back it up.

    How do you know when to end one paragraph and start the next? Well . . .

    3. Good Paragraphs Know When to End

    Every paragraph should last long enough to make one single point.

    Some paragraphs—like the one before—only need one sentence to make the point they intended. Others, like this one, need a few sentences to discuss the point fully and explain several ways of looking at it. You might need to expand upon your thoughts or give examples to drive the point home.

    When your point is made, you can move on to the next point. Which, obeying Rule #2 above, should relate back to the point that came before it, move on to make its own point, and end when that point is fully explained.

    Here’s what some writers do: They string together several points in a single paragraph, which is never effective. Breaking up paragraphs gives readers a visual cue that helps them organize their thoughts. When they see a paragraph, they know they’ll get a certain amount of information, which they can then store away in their brains under the heading “point one.”

    But if you give readers three distinct points in a single paragraph, it forces the reader to figure out where the separations are between those points.

    That’s work. And readers, as you’ve been told, hate work.

    If you don’t want your audience to start looking for the bullet points, keep your paragraphs easy for your readers to process, and let them end when their point is concluded.

    4. Good Paragraphs Mix Up Sentence Lengths

    You can keep your reader engaged with your paragraph by mixing up sentence lengths. Several sentence in a row with the exact same structure bores your reader. Here’s a quick example:

    Last week, I went to the circus and saw a monkey. Before the show, the monkey climbed the bars and looked at me aggressively. Noticing his expression, I backed away and called the guard. Unconcerned, he waved at the monkey and rolled his eyes at me.

    Each of these sentences is formed the same way, with a little intro clause and two short statements held together by an “and.” Even two sentences like that would’ve made your brain start to lag; four is way too much. Different sentence lengths help create a changing rhythm that’s interesting to your reader.

    Don’t Neglect Your Paragraphs

    You’ve likely already learned more than enough on how to cultivate great headlines, craft benefit-laden bullet points, and create mind-blowing introductions that make readers want to read on.

    It’s time to pay attention to the rest of what you write.

    Have more ideas for what should go into a great paragraph? Share them in the comments!

    About the author

      James Chartrand

      James Chartrand is a Top Ten blogger and an advocate for stress-free writing that gets results. Learn how to write content that really works, build rapport with readers, and fill your magical hat with money with the Damn Fine Words writing course for business owners. It's Write to Done approved!

    • Taide Rodríguez Gabarrón says:

      Me parecen muy intereantes sus comentarios y enseñanzas, apren do mucho en caa uno de ellos, los imprimo y he ido haciendo una carpeta que consulto seguido. Gracias y estoy pendiente de leer mas.Gracias.

    • Marilyn says:


      This is an excellent article. However two sentences caught my attention.

      The phrase “refer back” is redundant. The word “refer” and its prefix “re” means a repetition, a repeat. “Refer” is the only word you need. I had a high school teacher who downgraded students’ work whenever she discovered this error, plus the guilty student received a tongue-lashing as only Miss Jacob (who served in World War II ) could administer!


      “And if it’s a new paragraph, it has to refer back to the last sentence of the previous paragraph. Your very first paragraph will refer back to your headline.”

    • Lin says:

      Nice tips especially on the second one. I’m always blank when trying to practice my writing and the chain of thought practice will help me for sure. Suddenly I’m starting to see how articles on most good blogs are written. Thanks Chris.

    • Donna Crowe says:

      This was awesome, thanks!!

    • Crystal says:

      Good article. I think regardless of the style of writing it is important to think of the paragraph as a whole and how each sentence fits (or doesn’t) within the paragraph.

    • Kim Willis says:

      This is great James!

      I must confess I use bullet points to give copy more visual appeal. But as you say this may be because our paras are not effective at hooking readers – it’s just filler. After reading this post, it brought it home to me how effective good copy can be. Heck, you didn’t use bullets points, and I devoured every word.

      I am very pleased to have found this post and will certainly take on board your suggestions. I’ll check out your blog too



    • Hi Mary,
      Great article. Should be a must read for all bloggers.

    • Callie says:

      Thank you, I enjoyed this post and found it very helpful. I look forward to reading more.

    • I have to say that I am pleased that someone FINALLY took it upon herself (yes, herself) to write about this rather *un-sexy* subject.

      I hung onto every word.

      Then again, I usually do, as I am one of the rare people who actually DO read every word, whether it’s in a blog post, a short story, or a novel. Each word is carefully digested and enjoyed when I read. Some think I’m an anomaly in the blogosphere, too! (LOL. But I don’t care!)

      I must compliment you on a wonderful post, Ms. Chartrand. (Sorry, I cannot recall your real name, but I know you’re a woman, and a wonderful writer. I’ve read many of your posts before.)

      I loved it. I shared it on social media, too. More and more people need to learn that each word counts.

      Each paragraph, too. 😉

      Well done!

    • Jireh says:

      Hi James!

      I love to write and am an avid reader, and it does my heart good to read about the importance of great paragraphs. I am also very picky about what I read and I would definitely like to see more authors understand this concept!

      Great post and thank you so much for the opportunity to read it

    • Padmini says:

      This will be of great help to me.

    • Yes, indeed. All true and well said. My view of paragraphs is that they should take the reader on a worthwhile journey, stimulate curiosity, teach something and build to a satisfying crescendo. The missing crescendo here is the impact for the reader–which is really our aim as writers. No?

    • Mr Tobe says:

      Great tip, as always. Here’s something I do sometimes when I write. One could drop an unresolved thought in a paragraph and link its resolution to the coming paragraphs. It creates a chain of continuity and leaves the reader eager to satisfy his curiosity in the next paragraph

      • I’ll have to try that out a few times for size – sounds like it might be an interesting way of doing things! (Though I like to stick to straightforward and simple stuff.)

    • Pat says:

      Does this work?

    • Dan Frost says:

      A good post, James.

      The old Any Shuffle Test and Because Test have long whiskers.
      You may want to include them in your next paragraph post.

      The shuffle: Put the paragraph’s sentences in any order and the paragraph still makes sense when the because test is applied.

      The Because Test: Stick an invisible BECAUSE ? after each sentence. The next sentence must answer the question because ? or it doesn’t belong there. Cut it.

      Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Because ? They were thirsty. Because? Grandma sent Jack and Jill up the hill for water to make cookies. Because ? Jack had new boots.

      Grandma sent Jack and Jill up the hill for water to make cookies. They were thirsty. Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack had new boots.

      Of course, we cut Jack’s boots.

      After these test are used a few times, they become automatic. Because ? The writer will create better paragraphs.

      • I’d never heard of those two tests in all my years, but I can definitely say they’re damn fine ones, Dan! I love simple, easy, practical techniques like that, and I’m sure readers here do as well, so if you know where to find more of them, share the love!

    • Great tips fellow James!

      Do you have any resources or guidance for learning by example to write better paragraphs?

      Such as breakdowns of great copy – sales copy, marketing copy, stories – that engage and influence readers? Word for word, sound for sound, line for line, to better understand the rhythm and cadence and texture of good paragraphs?

      Thank you so much!

      • Glad you liked the post, James! I think it’s such an important skill to master in today’s day, where everyone and their uncle slams out all sorts of content.

        For breakdowns, you can find all sorts of those all over the web, though I find the bulk of them far too technical in nature, with not enough overall, generally practical advice like this post has.

        Though maybe I’ll put together something like that in a future post – stay tuned and we’ll see!

    • I read every flowing, pointed paragraph…on my smartphone.

      Nice work James.

    • The advice on writing good paragraph structure is ‘right on.’ Or should I say ‘WRITE ON!’

      Some ideas I share on how to keep the reeder engaged in the topiic one is writing about, but to be used spariingly, is the use of italics for emphasis, bold certain words, and (rarely) but sometimes — CAPITALIZE IF IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT.

      Another trick in writing a paragraph sentence or two that keeps people interested, is writing something that brings memories of a past experience that connects to the idea you wish to express in the present moment. This allows the reader to engage their mind and keep reading to see the new point to be made. AHHH yes….I remember when gasoline was (price) and the point you want to make (as connected to the sizzling headline and opening sentence?)

      That’s my thought. Am I correct?

      • When it comes to writing, it’s difficult to determine ‘correct’ and ‘not correct’ – it’s so subjective!

        I’d be cautious on all caps, though. People have come to associate an all caps text with shouting or yelling, and even when all caps is used appropriately, it does make people cringe a little.

    • Chris P says:

      I guess this is aimed entirely at bloggers or business document/letter writers. I’ve rarely seen a novel with ‘bullet’ points. Fiction – or even non fiction – books have flowing paragraphs anyway.

      Readers that simply read the headlines and bullet points don’t deserve writers. They might as well stick to comics. Why write for people who don’t appreciate writing. The internet has a lot to commend it, but it also has a lot to answer for.

      • Chris, I agree with you. Good readers are the lovers of the word an author produces. They just don’t look in haste what the central idea of the author is.. 🙂

      • This article is intended for those who write content for the web – articles, blog posts, website content, and the like… though crafting a good paragraph is a skill that can be used in any type of writing, including fiction.

        Leaving no sentence behind, forming a chain of thoughts… that’s useful advice for all writers!

    • I love the tips and ideas they are great help for me as a new beginner! I need some open HOOK THE READER PARAGRAPHS AND CLOSING/ ENDING PARAGRAPHS that catch the imagination – Thank you for the ideas.

      • You’re very welcome, Catherine – I guarantee that if you master writing great paragraphs, all the rest of what you mentioned will come easy, and breezy.

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