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The Heck is a Paragraph?

A paragraph (from the Ancient Greek παράγραφος paragraphos, "to write beside" or "written beside") is a self-contained unit of a discourse in writing dealing with a particular point or idea. A paragraph consists of one or more sentences. Though not required by the syntax of any language, paragraphs are usually an expected part of formal writing, used to organize longer prose.

Widows and Orphans

Widows and orphans occur when the first line of a paragraph is the last line in a column or page, or when the last line of a paragraph is the first line of a new column or page.

Paragraph Break

In word processing and desktop publishing, a hard return or paragraph break indicates a new paragraph, to be distinguished from the soft return at the end of a line internal to a paragraph. This distinction allows word wrap to automatically re-flow text as it is edited, without losing paragraph breaks. The software may apply vertical whitespace or indenting at paragraph breaks, depending on the selected style.

Writing Good Paragraphs

Style advice

Crafting of clear, coherent paragraphs is the subject of considerable stylistic debate

  • Form varies among different types of writing
  • A common English usage misconception is that a paragraph has three to five sentences; single-word paragraphs can be seen in some professional writing, and journalists often use single-sentence paragraphs.
  • A topic sentence or "main idea", preferably first
  • Multiple "supporting" or "detail" sentences which explain or supply evidence