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Published by: Flavius Trica
Last update: 3 April 2024 Published on: 3 April 2024

Paragraph length check: Why and how to write shorter paragraphs

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The paragraph length check in Yoast SEO (for WordPress or Shopify) tells you to write shorter paragraphs when they are too long. But why is this important? What does a good paragraph even look like? And lastly, what should you do to keep your paragraphs concise? Let’s explore!

Why your paragraphs shouldn’t be too long

Properly sized paragraphs play an important role in making your text readable. Big walls of text are not very nice to read, and they tend to scare off readers. Just imagine this entire article being one big paragraph! You’d probably have left the page before even reading the introduction.

Paragraphs also break down your text into bite-size and easy-to-understand chunks. This puts your readers at ease, because every time you end a paragraph, you give readers the opportunity to relax and think about what they’ve just read. It really helps people make sense of the entire text.

Easy to scan

Paragraphs also help readers to scan your text more easily. When people end up on a page, they rarely start reading the article from beginning to end. First, they want to see what they can expect. That’s why people generally scan headings and the first sentences of every paragraph before they start reading. So, if you break up your text into paragraphs that reflect the topics you’re addressing, people will quickly get a good grasp of what your article is about.

What does a good paragraph look like?

A good paragraph provides information on one well-defined aspect of the topic you’re discussing in your article. Consider the two paragraphs under the previous heading in this article, for example. They address why paragraphs make your text easy to scan. In addition, it’s good practice to start your paragraphs with a core sentence that summarizes the content of the paragraph. This will help readers decide whether a paragraph is interesting to read.

How long should your paragraph be?

This depends on the context, but a paragraph should generally be more than two sentences and fewer than 200 words. Anything more than 200 words becomes difficult to understand for most readers, which means you’re better off breaking it up into different subparagraphs.

And don’t underestimate how difficult it is to read long paragraphs! Sure, more experienced or skilled readers tend to be more forgiving. But that doesn’t mean your text wouldn’t benefit from shorter paragraphs. After all, presenting complex information in an accessible form is an art, not a shortcoming.

What does Yoast SEO’s paragraph length check do?

The paragraph length assessment checks the length of your paragraphs. We advise you to keep the length of your paragraphs below 150 words. If you do that, you’ll score a green light. You’ll get an orange light if your paragraphs contain more than 150 but less than 200 words. And if you exceed 200 words, your traffic light will be red.

In the case of an orange or red light, what should you do? Do you need to use fewer words to convey the same message? Do you need to cross out entire sentences? In most cases, the answer is no. Randomly deleting sentences will harm your text instead of improve it. It makes more sense to take a look at the structure of your text. Let’s explain!

Screenshot showing feedback bullet paragraph length check
The check shows a red light and corresponding feedback. If you click the eye button, the paragraph that needs improving will be highlighted.

How to keep your paragraphs short and crisp

If you have trouble limiting the length of your paragraphs, take a look at the entire text. Try to write down the main topics and individual aspects that you’re discussing. Let’s break down the heading and paragraph structure of this post as an example:

  1. Why your paragraphs shouldn’t be too long
    • Long paragraphs are bad for readability
    • Easy to scan
      • Long paragraphs make it difficult to scan a text
  2. What does a good paragraph look like?
    • A paragraph addresses one specific aspect of the topic
    • Paragraphs start with a core sentence
  3. How long should your paragraph be?
    • A good paragraph has more than two sentences and fewer than 200 words
  4. What does the paragraph length check do?
    • Describes the check and its feedback criteria
  5. How to keep your paragraphs short and crips
    • Look at the entire text
    • Example
    • Example analysis
  6. Conclusion

As you can see, the text is now neatly divided into different parts. It’s probably a good idea to do this before writing your article. If you notice one specific aspect is taking up more space than you expected, just consider whether you can break it down into two separate aspects. This is almost always possible. If it isn’t, you can get away with a long paragraph here and there.

Want to learn more about paragraph length? Our SEO copywriting course explains everything related to writing great posts. You can get access to this course and all of our other SEO courses with Yoast SEO Premium.

Conclusion

The Yoast SEO paragraph length check warns you when you write paragraphs that are too long. Because lengthy paragraphs make it harder for readers to read and scan your text. Good paragraphs discuss a single, well-defined aspect of the topic at hand. They start with a core sentence and generally shouldn’t exceed 200 words. If you tend to struggle with limiting the length of your paragraphs, consider breaking your article down into a schematic view. Then, consider whether you can break up larger paragraphs into shorter ones. Good luck!

Read more: The complete guide to SEO copywriting »

The post Paragraph length check: Why and how to write shorter paragraphs appeared first on Yoast.

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3 April 2024

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