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I've learned that variation in sentence length is good.

How about paragraph length?

I always end up with paragraphs like this:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tation ullamcorper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie consequat

Ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tation ullamcorper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie consequat

Amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tation ullamcorper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie consequat

(I think my mind unconsciously tries to even out the paragraph length every time I write).

Sometimes I do this:

Ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tation ullamcorper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie consequat

Something of great significance happened

Amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tation ullamcorper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie consequat

Sometimes dialogue adds up for some variation (I guess):

Amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tation ullamcorper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie consequat

Consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tation ullamcorper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie consequat

"Dolor in hendrerit in vulputate." Consectetuer adipiscing.

"Veniam, quis nostrud exerci tation ullamcorper."

"Hendrerit in vulputate." Adipiscing.

Sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tation ullamcorper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie consequat But as you can see, there isn't much.

Is variation in paragraph length good? Or it doesn't matter so much?

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3 Answers 3

Variation in paragraph length can be very useful, the same way variation in sentence length can be useful. As long as the short paragraph works (that is, the short punchy statement has a reason for being there, that the punchiness creates a dramatic or humorous moment or in some way serves the narrative), it's great for breaking up the monotony of prose.

Yes, it's good. But don't use it for decoration. Use it because it's necessary.

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+1, L.I. S&S. ;) –  John M. Landsberg Jul 2 '13 at 18:51
    
@JohnM.Landsberg I am pleased to express my gratitude for your felicitous if abbreviated commentary on my response. ;) –  Lauren Ipsum Jul 2 '13 at 20:59
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Yes, variation is good, whether it's word length, sentence length, paragraph length or even chapter length. But at the same time, you need to keep something else in mind: the paragraph needs to be as long as it needs to be. What I mean is, if you need to write a paragraph that's just one sentence long to make an impact ("Something of great significance happened" in your example) then do it. If you're doing it just to variate the paragraph length, you'll probably break the rhythm of the narration. If you have a long paragraph where a sum of things are happening, then make it long. If you join several paragraphs together just so you can have a long paragraph, you're misusing your paragraphs :)

Also, something else to think about: if your paragraphs are all the same length as in the first example, what's happening in the story? Why aren't there any dialogues? Why isn't there anything of significance happening? What I mean is, same length paragraphs can make the story appear monotonous, but also, the same length paragraphs can be a product of a monotonous story. If you notice that the paragraphs are the same length, you might want to examine the story to see why they're all the same length, and is there a way to spice up the storytelling. Chances are, if you make the story dynamic, the paragraph lengths will follow.

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I think it's ironic that both of your paragraphs are 7 lines long, and only vary in word length by about a dozen words. That said, it's sound advice... –  J.R. Jul 2 '13 at 0:56
    
@J.R. And monotonous, isn't it? No examples to break the text, no one-line punchline, no nothing ;) –  Tannalein Jul 2 '13 at 14:28
    
Until you get to the comments... –  J.R. Jul 2 '13 at 16:32
    
+1, T. Right on the money, as always. –  John M. Landsberg Jul 2 '13 at 18:47
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Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeell..........

Word length really shouldn't vary much more than the correct spelling of each word attempts to enforce, in most cases.

I think variation in sentence length has a great deal to commend it except that you must beware of allowing a sentence to become overlong to the point at which it could cause readers to lose interest and even lose track of where the sentence is going if there are so many elements in the sentence that no one could even keep track of where the sentence started and what it is trying to say and the sentence itself actually becomes a paragraph in and of itself even without the need of a single punctuation mark if you don't count the period that inevitably must be placed at the end.

Paragraph length should vary.

Really.

However much you want.

It maintains interest.

Credo in gente Anglorum confundit Latine scribere. So you might want to give it to us in English, maybe.

And I believe in humor to make a point. I think you probably guessed that. :D

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Are you a fan of Essay on Criticism? :) –  Lauren Ipsum Jul 2 '13 at 21:01
    
@LaurenIpsum I'm quite certain I would be a fan, because this clearly implies you recommend it, and I greatly respect your recommendations, but (it pains me to admit) I don't even know what it is. Dual pain here, from the embarrassment of not having read it, and the embarrassment of not knowing what it is. (In the case of Moby Dick, at least I have to endure only one of those pains.) –  John M. Landsberg Jul 3 '13 at 2:32
    
No worries. It's a poem by Alexander Pope poetry.eserver.org/essay-on-criticism.html which demonstrates the effects it discusses. (My fave is "ten low words oft creep in one dull line.") And I, as an English major, started Moby-Dick and refused to finish it because it was a damn brick, so hold your head high re that. :) –  Lauren Ipsum Jul 3 '13 at 11:23
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@LaurenIpsum Your comments are always intelligent, informative, and consoling. You didn't even harpoon me for missing the hyphen in the whale. ;) –  John M. Landsberg Jul 3 '13 at 15:03
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