Study: Short paragraphs boost online readership

Three easy tips to tighten paragraphs and increase readability.

When researchers for The Poynter Institute looked into what makes people read online, they found that one key predictor of attention was paragraph length. Researchers wrote:

“The bottom line is that stories with shorter paragraphs got more than twice as many overall eye fixations than those with longer paragraphs. These data suggest that the longer-paragraph format discourages reading and that short-paragraph format overwhelmingly encourages reading.”

Are your paragraphs too long? Here are three ways to make them tighter:

1. Hit return more often

This may be the easiest single thing you can do to cut the clutter in your copy.

I know, I know. Your third-grade teacher taught you that paragraphs were one unit of thought. They are. Just as your entire piece covers one idea, your sentences are units of thought, your words each express a single idea—heck, even the syllables each convey a concept.

You just need to see your thoughts as smaller, more discrete units. David A. Fryxell, former editor of Writer’s Digest, recommends that you hit return when you need to:

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