Friday, August 22, 2008

Vary your paragraph length like NYT columnist Floyd Norris

It can be painful to read a page full of long sentences and longer paragraphs. That's why, when I teach "How to Write Investment Commentary that People Will Read," I suggest that people vary the length of their sentences and paragraphs.

New York Times columnist Floyd Norris illustrates this nicely in the print version of his article"No Profit Without Risk."

In the print version, a two-line paragraph follows an eight-line paragraph and a 10-line paragraph. The contrast between two vs. eight and ten in the print version is starker than what you'll see in the online article. By the way, the online article goes by a different title than the print version, so please don't tell me I got his title wrong.

The short third paragraph comes as a relief. It gives the reader a chance to breathe. Plus, its shortness emphasizes the contrast between the content of the first two paragraphs and third.

In fact, Norris' opening three paragraphs illustrate a classic article approach that goes like this:
People thought blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah
They were wrong.

So, think about mixing up your sentence and paragraph lengths the next time you write. Your readers will reward you by paying attention longer.


_________________
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Investment Writing

Writing that's an investment in your success

Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.

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