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Cut the Fat

Last updated Oct 17, 2003.

Readers scanning and rarely reading word for word justify the need for shorter paragraphs. The general recommendation is to keep the paragraphs at two or three lines, three to five sentences, or one idea. Emails or content without paragraph breaks are difficult to read because it's easy to lose your place and not be able to find it. The spacing between paragraphs provides cues to where you are on the page. Long paragraphs may work better when broken into two paragraphs.

Just like it's harder to stay on track reading a long paragraph, it's tough to follow when the text goes from one side of the screen to the other. The number of characters per line varies based on font size. Lines with 40 to 60 characters are the norm on sites that have well-structured paragraphs.

Figure 7 has an example of a long text taking up the length of the screen. I talked with IBM developerWorks and they have debated the long vs. short issue and chose to stick with long.

Figure 6Figure 6 Darwin Magazine uses narrow paragraphs for easier reading and tracking.

Figure 7Figure 7 IBM developerWorks uses the most of the screen width, making it harder to read and track.

Tip #7: Use short paragraphs.