ENGL 101
English Composition I
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Many writers have difficulty with the concepts of paragraphs. Most students at some time were taught that paragraphs have at least 5 sentences, and never more than 10 sentences. This is a nice crutch to teach a beginning writer, but unfortunately most writers are never taught anything to move them beyond this crutch. Any reading of successful, professional writers will show you that paragraphs can be any length that the writer deems necessary. One or two sentence paragraphs are not uncommon, nor are incredibly lengthy, over a page long paragraphs. The trick is to bear in mind what a paragraph really is:

A paragraph is a created division in a piece of writing that helps the writer and the reader keep control of the information being presented.

The key words in this definition are "created" and "control."
Created - there are no hard and fast paragraph rules. The writer puts paragraph breaks where they are needed, in the writer's opinion. There are specific circumstances when the majority of writers will create a new paragraph (they are dealt with below), but they are not mandated or required. Odd paragraphing will affect the way your reader understands your writing, but it is the writer's right.
Control - the writer needs to use the paragraphs to tame the information in the essay. Early manuscripts didn't have paragraphs, and the entire book or essay was one long paragraph. Early readers had difficulty understanding where one idea or argument ended and another began, so they began to make subdivisions in the writing, what we call paragraphs. A writer needs to understand that every paragraph break needs a reason to exist: a new speaker, a new idea, a shift in location or time, or even just a point that needs to be emphasized.

Some basic guidelines about paragraphs (things to keep in mind):