I am told to avoid writing one-sentence paragraphs. What are some good reasons for following this rule?

  • This is off-topic on ELU. Writing advice is available on other websites, eg Writers.SE. – Edwin Ashworth May 20 '15 at 19:23
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    I'm voting to close this question as it is a request for opinions about guidance given to writers, and not about English language and usage as defined in the help center. – choster May 20 '15 at 19:38
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    To answer the question, if you find yourself writing a single-sentence paragraph, ask yourself "do I actually need this paragraph?" "would this be clearer if I incorporated this sentence into the previous or the following paragraph?". If the answers are "yes" and "no", leave it as is. – Peter Shor May 20 '15 at 20:02
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    @EdwinAshworth: Could you help me migrate this to Writers? Thanks. – Kenny LJ May 20 '15 at 21:26
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    The main point is that if you have a lot of one-sentence paragraphs you likely either 1) are writing sentences that are too long, or 2) are not properly using paragraphs to encompass and delineate a complete thought or concept. But it's a judgment call. – Hot Licks May 20 '15 at 21:32

There is nothing wrong with writing a single sentence paragraph, so long as that sentence communicates the desired message.

The UNC Writing Center says:

Paragraphs are the building blocks of papers. Many students define paragraphs in terms of length: a paragraph is a group of at least five sentences, a paragraph is half a page long, etc. In reality, though, the unity and coherence of ideas among sentences is what constitutes a paragraph. A paragraph is defined as “a group of sentences or a single sentence that forms a unit” (Lunsford and Connors 116). Length and appearance do not determine whether a section in a paper is a paragraph. For instance, in some styles of writing, particularly journalistic styles, a paragraph can be just one sentence long. Ultimately, a paragraph is a sentence or group of sentences that support one main idea.

  • Superb answer. But not the correct place for it. Still, I'm filing it. – Edwin Ashworth May 20 '15 at 22:05

Since each paragraph supposedly has a purpose for being, at least one sentence would be needed to state that point. Additional statements would usually be required to elucidate, expand upon, or support that idea. A one sentence paragraph would probably either be excessive in length or insufficiently expressive of the idea.

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    Look at the one-sentence first paragraph of Millikan's oil-drop experiment paper (given in the comments above) and tell me why it is excessive in length or insufficiently expressive of the idea. – Peter Shor May 20 '15 at 20:06
  • I said specifically "Additional statements would usually be required... ." That certainly allows for exceptions; some of which are notable because they are just that: exceptions. – KnightStar May 20 '15 at 21:10
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    The person asked what reasons would support the idea of having more than one sentence in a paragraph. – KnightStar May 20 '15 at 21:11

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