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.

The Mechanical Department The Period facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail