One of the first rules you learn when you start writing essays is that, typically, each paragraph should convey one idea. You wouldn’t want to overwhelm the reader with more than one key idea per paragraph, and you should also avoid repeating the same idea without adding anything new for several consecutive paragraphs.
From a clarity and readability standpoint, this makes perfect sense. When a paragraph is limited to one key idea, it is easier to follow and understand the logical flow of the text. The problem with this rule, as is with any other rule that takes only one dimension into account, is that this guideline is hardly enough. Many people emphasize this guideline because it is easy to evaluate and follow. But to write a good paragraph, you must have a broader perspective and not settle with this essential but insufficient rule.
A perfect paragraph never stands by itself. In most cases, it is part of a larger text, so it must be evaluated in a broader context. No less important is that we cannot talk about how good a paragraph is without considering the text’s consumer: the reader.
The Perfect Paragraph Has Value
Good content provides value to the audience. But would you consider a 2,000-word article good if the value is confined to its last paragraph?
Engaging content must provide value from its first word until the end — each paragraph should have value encapsulated. If a paragraph conveys an idea, but this idea is of no use to the reader, it is far from being a good paragraph.
Stating the obvious, repeating a previous insight without adding a new perspective, or just describing something that does not contribute to the keynote of the text suggests that the paragraph is redundant. The perfect paragraph provides value that can stand by itself. Of course, it is part of a bigger picture, but it must be more than just a jigsaw puzzle piece.
The perfect paragraph changes something in the mind of the reader.
The Perfect Paragraph Flows Naturally
The perfect paragraph has standalone value, but at the same time, it must connect naturally to the preceding and following ideas.
The flow of your text is as important as the ideas you wish to convey. Text that doesn’t flow naturally is not engaging, and as a result, it is less effective. Any text with more than one paragraph should be designed to read fluently. Don’t make the reader question the logical flow. The order in which ideas are arranged must be transparent to the reader, and the only way to achieve that is by creating a chain of ideas in which every link in the chain works perfectly with the links next to it.
This does not mean there is only one correct way to arrange your ideas. Creative flows that are not trivial or common can sometimes be even more engaging. Don’t use the same structure for all your writing. Experiment with different logical flows and see what works best in a given context and how to create surprise and engagement without compromising the logical flow of ideas.
The Perfect Paragraph Makes You Think
A thinking reader is an engaged reader. More than driving action, a compelling text triggers thinking. When every paragraph is capable of doing that, the audience becomes hooked.
Don’t settle for providing value within each paragraph — make your audience think. When the reader processes the text, it becomes more memorable, and it resonates longer. When designing your text, ensure each paragraph potentially makes the reader stop to reflect, consider the implications, or change the way they think.