Scared Off by the Big, Bad Paragraph

I was reading the list of upcoming business meetings in a weekly email from The Seattle Times, when a meeting announcement caught my attention. The presenter was going to speak on a topic that interests me–the steps in growing one’s business. I often weigh the advantages of getting bigger vs. staying small as a business, so I thought I would register for her talk.

But I wanted to know more about the presenter, so I clicked the link to her blog. That’s when things went wrong.

Her latest blog entry was one huge paragraph 41 lines long. Can you imagine her 325 words in one big block? You don’t have to–I have created a 325-word block of text below. Don’t bother to read the words. They’re just the text you are already reading.

Don’t read this sample big, bad paragraph–just notice it.
I was reading the list of upcoming business meetings in a weekly email from The Seattle Times, when a meeting announcement caught my attention. The presenter was going to talk on a topic that interests me–the steps in growing one’s business. I often weigh the advantages of getting bigger vs. staying small as a business, so I thought I would register for her talk. But I wanted to know more about the presenter, so I clicked the link to her blog. That’s when things went wrong. Her latest blog entry was one huge paragraph 41 lines long. Can you imagine her 325 words in one big block? You don’t have to–I have created a 325-word block of text here. I forced myself to read her paragraph. Hiding in it was some good information, but that info could not undo the negative impression. If that big, bad paragraph represents the woman’s communication skills, I would be much better off finding another resource.I was reading the list of upcoming business meetings in a weekly email from The Seattle Times, when a meeting announcement caught my attention. The presenter was going to talk on a topic that interests me–the steps in growing one’s business. I often weigh the advantages of getting bigger vs. staying small as a business, so I thought I would register for her talk. But I wanted to know more about the presenter, so I clicked the link to her blog. That’s when things went wrong. Her latest blog entry was one huge paragraph 41 lines long. Can you imagine her 325 words in one big block? You don’t have to–I have created a 325-word block of text here I forced myself to read her paragraph. Hiding in it was some good information, but that info could not undo the negative impression. If that big, bad paragraph represents the woman’s communication skills, I would be much better off finding another resource.

I forced myself to read her paragraph. Hiding in it was some good information, but that info could not undo the negative impression of thoughts stuffed into one big paragraph. If that big, bad paragraph represents the woman’s communication skills, I would be much better off finding another resource. I won’t be attending that meeting.

A huge block of text, even when well organized, intimidates readers and turns off skimmers. Most of us know this, but if you work with people who are still churning out thick wads of text, talk with them about what works in today’s messages. You will be doing your coworkers–and their readers–a huge favor.

Lynn

 

3 COMMENTS

  1. Lynn, this is a great reminder and example of big bad paragraphs. I’m like you – click out of a site straight away if I’m being asked to read a great big slab of text.

    I do wonder though what it is that people find hard about using paragraphs for readability. Compared to other things – like apostrophes for example – it’s not hard to master. Do you think it’s that the writer is just not thinking about their reader at all?

    Joanna

  2. Joanna, I believe you are correct: people are not thinking about their readers. In the example that scared me off, the relentless sentences read like a draft of a speech. Maybe the blogger was thinking of her post in spoken rhythms, but it did not work in 325 words on the screen.

    I think breaking up paragraphs does require an awareness of the reader. That’s why I suggest we talk with people who are ignoring an easy way to improve their writing.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Lynn

  3. I try to remember to break up long paragraphs when writing, especially on my blog, where white space is even more important. Reading on-screen is harder on the eyes than on paper (for me, anyway).

    Before I submit a blog post, I go back and break up chunks. I want my reader to make it to the end of the post!

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