How to Use Single-Sentence Paragraphs to Improve Your Book

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The average paragraph has three to five sentences. Mid-to-long paragraphs have their place in describing a setting, delving into a character’s mind, or exploring an idea. They’re certainly essential to any book.

Sometimes, however, a paragraph of a single sentence can shine a spotlight on an element of the story.

Here’s the scoop on why and how to use single-sentence paragraphs to punch up your writing. Besides, a good story needs variation in paragraph length to achieve a smooth, engaging flow. Once your manuscript is ready, we’re here to edit your book to make it the best possible version of itself. 

Why you should use single-sentence paragraphs

A single-sentence paragraph stands out. It breaks up the writing visually and draws the reader’s eye. In other words, it demands attention. Giving a single sentence its own paragraph highlights the information, emphasizing it in a way that’s simply not possible when it’s sandwiched among several other sentences.

A single-sentence paragraph changes the rhythm of the writing. Thus, it can change the pace, build tension, or add dramatic effect. At the end of a chapter, it can compel the reader to keep going. 

For an example of a single-sentence paragraph in action, read this short passage from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury:

It was like coming into the cold marbled room of a mausoleum after the moon has set. Complete darkness, not a hint of the silver world outside, the windows tightly shut, the chamber a tomb world where no sound from the great city could penetrate. The room was not empty.

He listened.

The first paragraph sets the scene as the protagonist, Montag, enters a room. The description is cold and grim, and then suddenly an isolated sentence: He listened. This simple sentence pulled away from the first paragraph prompts the reader to focus on those words. The action is emphasized, giving it more importance than it would have had if this short sentence had simply been tacked onto the end of the first paragraph. The reader is forced to stop and pay attention, just as Montag stops to listen. As a consequence, tension is high.

How to use single-sentence paragraphs

Hopefully, we’ve convinced you that single-sentence paragraphs can be a powerful tool, but you can’t simply drop one wherever you want and expect it to work. An isolated sentence needs the right placement to have the desired effect. You shouldn’t try to use single-sentence paragraphs simply for the sake of it—you should aim to recognize where they’re appropriate and use them sparingly for maximum impact.

The easiest way to determine where to have single-sentence paragraphs is to slot them in later. Write a scene or a section using full paragraphs first. Then go back and consider if there are any sentences you can carve out as their own paragraph to build tension or emphasize a dramatic moment. Play around with this and see how the rhythm and pace change and whether those changes improve the reading experience. Take the time to experiment—you’ll end up with a more well-rounded and better-written story.

Mastering any writing technique requires practice, so experiment with single-sentence paragraphs and see how you can make them work for you. Don’t forget to reach out for help from an editor: We provide top-quality sentence and paragraph editing to elevate your story.

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