Hmmm. Is that the right paragraph length?
Although paragraph structure challenges writers, it is essential not only to help organize the content logically but also to keep the reader interested to the end of the document. On the other hand, if paragraphs are not structured well, the reader will have difficulty understanding the ideas being presented and will be unlikely to respond as you wish.
You need to know when to break the paragraph. Two of the most common problems I encounter when editing academic papers are paragraphs that are incomplete and paragraphs that are too expansive. While editing a graduate student’s paper recently, I came across a paragraph that was nearly 1.5 pages long. That, alone, is not a problem. A paragraph can be quite long, or quite short, and still accomplish its purpose—but only if it follows two essential principles.
1. A paragraph discusses one, and only one, idea.
2. A paragraph provides a transition to the next idea. Continue reading
Commas in Series
- The toy was red [comma] round [comma] and heavy.
- I purchased pickles at the store [comma] gas at the convenience store [comma] and flowers at the florist for my beautiful wife.
Separate every item in a series with a comma.
Series: A series is a string of three or more matching items in a sentence. For example, the series in sample 1 contains three items: red, round, and heavy. The series in sample 2 also contains three items.
Take a look at sample 1 and see how the commas fit the rule. The first item is red, and it is separated from round by a comma. The second item is round, and it is separated from red and heavy by commas. Every item in the series is separated from the other items by commas.
The Zen Comma Master
Koan 1: Bumbo approached the teacher and said, “Teacher, I was taught not to use the comma before the word and. Is that true?” The teacher replied, “Newspapers.”
The English language has many confusing word pairs, those word pairs that make people stop and ask, “Is it this word or that word? Which word do I use?”
Writing, of any type, is for communication. When you use the correct word, you can accurately communicate your ideas. On the other hand, if you use the wrong word, you risk communicating the wrong idea, and you risk losing credibility with your reader, whether your reader is a potential client, a professor, a publisher, or a visitor to your web site. Continue reading
Filed under Editing, Writing