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The Paragraph

=141. Paragraph a Mark of Punctuation
Discussion of the paragraph
really belongs under the head of punctuation, since its purpose is to
set off the larger divisions of the story in the same way that the
period and the comma mark sentences and phrases. The indention of the
first line catches the eye of the reader and notifies him silently to
stop for a summary of his impressions before starting a somewhat
different phase of the story. Its purpose, like that of the other marks
of punctuation, is clearness and emphasis. Yet since its very lax laws
are much the same as those of the story, it must be noticed

=142. Clearness
The first requirement of the paragraph is that it
shall be clear. Its relation to the paragraphs preceding and following
must be evident at a glance. If transitional phrases and sentences or
relation words are necessary for making the relation clear, use them;
but as a rule, as stated concerning the story as a whole, reliance for
clearness in and between paragraphs is placed mainly on the natural and
close sequence of ideas.

=143. Emphasis
Next to clearness, the important thing to strive for
in the news paragraph is emphasis. Proper emphasis is not a virtue; it
is a necessity, because the eye of the rapid reader, as he glances down
the columns of the paper, catches only the first words and phrases at
each paragraph indention. And according as those words and phrases
interest him, so will he take sufficient interest in the paragraph as a
whole to read it. For this reason the beginning of each paragraph
especially should be emphasized by placing there the most important
details. The reporter should guard against putting even dependent
clauses and phrases used for subconnection at the beginning of a
paragraph, but should envelop them, rather, within the sentence. He
should not begin successive paragraphs with the same words or phrases or
with the same construction. It is remarkable how unfavorably such small
details influence readers. All this does not mean that the paragraph
should end lamely. It cannot conclude with the emphasis of the
beginning, it is true, but it may be well rounded at the end and its
lack of emphasis in details may be compensated with vigor and deftness
of expression.

=144. Paragraph Length
The length of one's paragraphs should also be
a matter of due consideration. They must be not only brief, but brief
looking. The modern reader will not brook long ones. Single-sentence
paragraphs are frequent, particularly in the lead. Two- or
three-sentence paragraphs are common. Half-column paragraphs are
unendurable. The average newspaper column permits lines of about seven
words each, so that twenty lines, or 140 words, should be the limit of a
paragraph. Eight or ten lines is a good average length. Because of this
necessary brevity, the newspaper paragraph allows no topics and
subtopics within its limited space, but throws every subtopic into an
individual paragraph. This the reporter may follow as a safe rule in
paragraphing: whenever in doubt about the advisability of a new
paragraph, make one.

Next: The Sentence

Previous: The Body Of The Story

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