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    Journalism 101
    Paragraph Breaks: Why
    Readers Can't Get Enough


    By Mark Grabowski

    When it comes to newspaper paragraphs, remember: size does matter.

    And smaller is always better.

    When you write stories, whether it's a profile story, breaking news piece or something else, keep your paragraphs short.

    This is doubly important for online journalism, where studies have found that readers quickly get turned off by large chunks of text and jump ship.

    Forget the old rule you learned in English class about starting a new paragraph only when the theme changes. If you're doing a short story, you might have only one theme. But grouping all 10 sentences together in one paragraph is difficult on the reader's eyes.

    Short, punchy paragraphs are much easier for readers to scan and absorb.

    Really.

    Consider starting a new paragraph after each sentence. At a maximum, never have more than three sentences in a newspaper paragraph.

    This may require you starting paragraphs when there is not a new theme or idea. Do it. Your story will be much easier to read.

    Take a look at two versions of the same story below -- which would you rather read?



    EXAMPLE A

    ____"Oh my God, I can't take the stress anymore!"
    ____It's a common sentiment among Monmouth University students nowadays, with final exams starting next week.
    ____Many students are already under much stress to begin with. Some have have to work to pay for tuition and personal items. Others spend several hours a day on activities, like playing a varsity sport or editing the school newspaper. And school obligations are just half the story. Many students also have busy personal lives that may include a significant other or even children.
    ____Excessive stress can eventually lead to serious health problems, warns nursing professor Dianne Van Arsdale, who's a registered nurse. But there are a number of things students can do to beat stress.
    ____"Meditation, getting enough sleep and not taking any stimulants," she recommends, adding that "having a positive attitude can really make a difference and help you at the end."
    ____"Yoga is my answer," says psychology major Jillian Ferri. "I do yoga two-to-three times a week, and it helps with my stress and headaches I get from daily stress. And it's a great way for me to relax and open my mind to new ideas."
    ____If meditation or yoga isn't your cup of tea, Monmouth University Fitness Center offers a number of other activities. In addition, Counseling and Psychological Services on Wed., Dec. 12, will offer its annual "De-Stress Fest." The event runs from 1 to 4 p.m. in Anacon Hall and offers students health food, movies, prizes and the always popular free massages.
    ____Whatever you do, don't freak out, Arsdale says. Even if you find yourself with a tough final exam and a 15-page paper both due the next day.
    ____"You can always ask for help or even pray for strength and guidance," Arsdale advises.


    EXAMPLE B

    "Oh my God, I can't take the stress anymore!" It's a common sentiment among Monmouth University students nowadays, with final exams starting next week. Many students are already under much stress to begin with. Some have have to work to pay for tuition and personal items. Others spend several hours a day on activities, like playing a varsity sport or editing the school newspaper. And school obligations are just half the story. Many students also have busy personal lives that may include a significant other or even children. Excessive stress can eventually lead to serious health problems, warns nursing professor Dianne Van Arsdale, who's a registered nurse. But there are a number of things students can do to beat stress. "Meditation, getting enough sleep and not taking any stimulants," she recommends, adding that "having a positive attitude can really make a difference and help you at the end." "Yoga is my answer," says psychology major Jillian Ferri. "I do yoga two-to-three times a week, and it helps with my stress and headaches I get from daily stress. And it's a great way for me to relax and open my mind to new ideas." If meditation or yoga isn't your cup of tea, Monmouth University Fitness Center offers a number of other activities. In addition, Counseling and Psychological Services on Wed., Dec. 12, will offer its annual "De-Stress Fest." The event runs from 1 to 4 p.m. in Anacon Hall and offers students health food, movies, prizes and the always popular free massages. Whatever you do, don't freak out, Arsdale says. Even if you find yourself with a tough final exam and a 15-page paper both due the next day. "You can always ask for help or even pray for strength and guidance," Arsdale advises.



    Mark Grabowski is a journalism professor at Marist College and creator of www.CubReporters.org. He previously was a newspaper reporter and online journalist. © 2008