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How Long Should a Paragraph Be in Essays or college writing

Writing a paragraph

Paragraph length is one of the more important things to get right when you’re writing an article. A good paragraph length will help your article to be more engaging and easier to read. The ideal paragraph length is one of the most debated topics in writing.

It is not the same for all types of writing, and it’s not the same for all types of writers. Many factors will influence what your ideal paragraph length is. In this article, we dig deep into how long should a paragraph be and the factors influencing its length.

What is a Paragraph?

Paragraphs are a fundamental feature of writing. In a very basic sense, it is a collection of sentences that make a point. It can also be defined as a collection of sentences that are connected to each other. They are used to organize your thoughts and to break up a text into sections, making it easier for readers to digest what you have written. A paragraph is also used to introduce a topic, define a point or set a scene.

A single paragraph should only have one main idea and its supporting details.

a Paragraph

Every sentence should support your main idea.

Most professional writers argue that a comprehensive and readable paragraph should be about three or five sentences long.

However, there are shorter and longer paragraphs depending on the use of the text in question.

Characteristic of a Good Paragraph

Characteristic of a Good Paragraph
  • It should be brief: A good paragraph is brief and concise. The length of the paragraph determines its readability and whether the reader will be able to understand it.
  • It covers only one idea: An excellent paragraph does not ramble around different ideas. It is focused and precise.
  • It is clear and precise: A good paragraph uses precise and specific language. It avoids vague and ambiguous language.
  • It is organized: A good paragraph is arranged clearly and logically.

How Long Should a Paragraph Be?

The length of a paragraph depends on several factors, including how the paragraph is used, the length of its sentences, and the information it contains.

The average paragraph length of a blog post is between 100 and 250 words, so writing a short paragraph of 10 to 20 words is a good choice for a blog post.

On the other hand, a long paragraph of more than 250 words is best for a research paper. These are basically one-page long paragraphs. Feel free to use our free word to pages converter to know the number of pages for every word count.

In a formal essay, a paragraph should contain between three and six sentences of 15 to 20 words each. In a resume, a paragraph should be between two and five sentences of 25 to 30 words each. 

In terms of sentences, a readable paragraph should be about 4 to six sentences. However, there are even as short as one sentence paragraphs for blogs, dialogues, and short stories. There are also more than six sentences paragraphs for high scholarly work.

Factors Determining the Length of a Good Paragraph

A paragraph is the base of any good writing. As earlier mentioned a paraph has two main purposes. One is to explain something to the reader.

The second purpose is to create a visual break in the piece of writing so that the reader knows where the current idea being explained will end. There are many factors that determine the length of a good paragraph. These include;

1. The Medium used

A medium/ channel is a communication route or system that allows the transmission of information from a speaker or writer (the sender) to the audience (the receiver).

Some examples of written media that use paragraphs include newspapers, television, books, reports, magazines, and the internet.

Some media such as television and the internet may require precise information due to time and data usage. This means that paragraphs written for such media must be short.

However, when writing books and magazines, the audience has a lot of time. As such, information needs to be broad, thus calling for longer paragraphs.

2. The Topic you are writing

A topic is a specific issue or concept that is discussed in a paragraph, essay, report, or speech. In a paragraph, the principal topic is contained in the topic sentence. The broader the topic sentence the longer the paragraph.

This means that topics with a limited, or specific scope are easier to describe carefully and in detail using fewer words than topics that are ambiguous or extremely broad.

For example, general topics like mountains, automobiles, and music sound systems are so wide and hence will take a lot of words to explain in a single paragraph.

On the other hand, some aspects of sound systems, such as compact discs are more straightforward hence may take fewer words.

3. The target Audience

These are listeners or spectators during a presentation or performance, or the intended readers for a piece of writing.


It’s crucial to consider the relationship between your audience’s knowledge and level of expertise on the subject, and your own evidence selection and presentation.

Much of what you say in a paragraph relies on whether you’re speaking to a group of specialists or a broader audience of people interested in your issue.

Also the technique you structure your paragraphs and the quantity of detail you include—the terminology you define, the amount of background you provide, the depth of your explanations—are influenced by what your audience requires.

4. The Purpose of your writing

The purpose refers to the reason for writing the paragraph. Such reasons include to inform, entertain, explain, or persuade. It is also known as the goal of writing.

As a writer, you must know the objective of your writing and align your point of view with that aim. This purpose also determines the optimal length of your paper or an essay.

The objective of writing alters the length of the paragraph greatly. For example, paragraphs are written to explain are much short because they are straight to the point.

On the other hand, you need a lot of information in one paragraph if you were to persuade your audience effectively. For instance, when writing a 2-page essay, you will need short paragraphs so that the points will fit in the paper.

How Long Should a Paragraph Be?

Students frequently encounter the issue of balancing a word count with a general essay structure — introduction, body, and conclusion paragraphs – when writing an essay.

Academic writing conventions suggest that the main text (body) be the most important in terms of substance and word quantity in this scenario. In general, the following is a suggested structure:

  • The introduction should account for 10% of the entire word count.
  • Body paragraphs account for 80% of the total word count.
  • The conclusion accounts for 10% of the total word count.

1. In a College Essay

When it comes to college writing there are no specific rules or formulas concerning paragraph length. However, a common rule of thumb for paragraphs in college essays is that they should be about 1/3 to 1/2 page long. If you go on much longer, there’s a considerable probability you’ll have more than one core thought.

  • Generally, if the total word count is 500, then,
  • 50 words for the introduction paragraph.
  • A total of 400 words are used in the body paragraphs (divided almost equally amongst paragraphs)
  • 50-word conclusion paragraph

 2. In a High School Essay

In high school, a paragraph should be about 5-7 sentences long. However, you should focus on writing, not on worrying about the number of words. The paragraph should be long enough to make your point and short enough to keep your reader interested.

All the same, most students struggle with the paragraph length question because they don’t want to make it too long or too short. Most scholars say it should be;

  • Generally, if there are 250 words in total, then
  • The first paragraph is 25 words long.
  • 200-word body paragraphs (divided equally amongst the paragraphs)
  • 25-word conclusion paragraph

3. In a Graduate Essay

In graduate essay paragraphs, you want to keep your readers engaged, and still give them room to breathe. So it means that you don’t want to use them too often, but you also don’t want to be using many sentences in your essay. Therefore, the trick is to make sure that you have the right balance of paragraphs and sentences.

  • In general, if there is a total word count is 1000.
  • 100-word introduction paragraph
  • A total of 800 words are used in the body paragraphs (divided equally among paragraphs)
  • 100-word conclusion paragraph