Paragraph Size: Typical academic prose paragraphs are between five sentences and 200 to 250 words long, i.e., 1 typed page [check the left margins!].*
- Symptom: Paragraphs Too Short--fewer than five sentences
- Cause: underdeveloped ideas, often caused by listing ideas instead of explaining them
- Cure: explain causes or effects of things merely reported; offer examples that help define or clarify evidence ["for instance," "that is,"];
- Cause: choppy or no logical flow between paragraphs
- Cure: develop transition at head or foot of paragraph explaining what its topic contributes to your thesis and pointing toward the need for the next paragraph--make sure every paragraph is "about your thesis"
Symptom: Paragraphs Too Long--more than a page (250 words double spaced--check the left margin:
- look for natural paragraph breaks at changes in an underdeveloped topic when you have been listing ideas--
- develop that idea and make it a new, fully-formed paragraph--see above
- look for natural paragraph breaks at changes in what the paragraph is doing (task) with a fully developed topic--
- insert a paragraph break and write logical transition between the tasks--see above
* Leonard J. Rosen, Decisions: A Writer's Handbook, 1st Edition (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1998) 45-7.