Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Peculiar Paragraph

The paragraph.

The words have an almost ominous ring, don't they? I can see it now - the evil sentences form a band, plotting, joining together against a reader's mind.

Because that is what paragraphs can do.

I am a speed reader. My brain was just built that way. And, if a paragraph is too long, my mind wanders. I pick out key words and phrases, but I never quite get every word.

I read a lot of the classics as a teenager. Dickens, Henty, Haggard, and Kingsley... They all wrote page-long paragraphs. And their run-on sentences were crazy.

Training myself not to write like them was a chore. 

In fact, I might never have trained myself to shorten my paragraphs except for a lovely piece of advice I received right around the time I first became a published author.

You ready?

If it's too long, it's wrong.

It's that simple. An overly-long paragraph means that somewhere, somehow, a topic change lurks among your words. And it's up to you to find it.

So go practice. Spot those long paragraphs and see how you can split it up. (Heartrending, I know, but it must be done.) You can do it. Ready...set...go!

Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog or Facebook to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!

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