Noob question: how long should an "ideal" paragraph be?

Thank you @trevers17 for your reply.

I was thinking that probably the “best” paragraph length is the one that does not require a cellphone reader to scroll up or down. What do you think?

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That is certainly a good consideration, but in my honest opinion, there are so few complaints about paragraph length (in my experience) that it’s not something to stress over. I’ve not really seen anyone say, “These paragraphs are too long to read on a cellphone!” (AFAIK, most people play on tablets or laptops anyway.)

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There’s multiple answers to this.

A thing for me personally is that after multiple stress meltdowns, I find my ability to concentrate severely damaged, and I have noticed that when the paragraphs get long, I subconsciously skip them, my mind somehow deciding that they are unimportant, and my eyes focusing on short paragraphs, dialog and other signifiers of things actually happening.

As such, I have come to consider it an issue of accessability. Shorter paragraphs make it easier to read, and as such more available for people who can’t concentrate through full-page paragraphs of descriptions.

A more generel way to think about this, is that a paragraph should be one “thing”. If another “thing” happens, that isn’t necessarily connected to the first, it needs it’s own paragraph.

A shift in line tells the mind that it needs to pay attention. Paragraph and sentence lengths does a lot for the pacing of your prose.

There’s also more specific rules, like you shouldn’t have two different characters speak in the same paragraph.

I haven’t seen this being said about paragraphs, no, but I have seen it many times about page lengths.

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It seems you are asking what the best format to use in your game to be most accessible on as many devises as possible.

This is a hard question because the sizes vary so much… even the screen sizes on phones have grown over the years, so do you plan for older phones and readers or do you plan on what is “standard” for today?

My rule of thumb when I am writing is to break it up with a *page_break once I reach about 20 lines on my full-size PC monitor’s screen.

What you are using to make your game will change this rule of thumb, but either way, your responsibility is to find some testers with different devises to help you determine what works for your story.

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As @trevers17 points out, the amounts of complaint over paragraph length aren’t much. However, it should be noted that if you’re on the fence between long and short, always go short. Light, waifs of a paragraph are always better on the reader’s comprehension than the WALL OF TEXT. For example, this paragraph below is interesting and well-written:

How to Avoid the Dreaded Wall of Text – Hananiah Wilson

Now, how much of it did you actually read? Did you read it at all?

With that being said, there is a caveat to this: if you story uses a lot of dialogue or not. This largely comes down to your style of writing, and how you present your story. If you do use a lot of dialogue, then it’s fairly easy to keep your paragraphs thin. On the other hand, if you’re going for a different angle (say you’re describing a flashback), then you need to be more thoughtful with your paragraph length.

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If I had to give an ideal paragraph length for myself, I’d say 3-5 sentences. And even further, those wouldn’t necessarily be long sentences either - 8-14 words at the most. If they’re dialogue, I’d go even shorter, like 6-10 max, unless someone is ranting.

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That picture makes my brain scream. :tired_face: :confounded:

Another thing: Page layout is more engaging if the paragraphs vary in size.

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This is excerpt from Choice of Games Style Guide document which I think can be applied to for this question.

  • Too much text between options can be boring.
    • After about 100–200 words of text in the main body, consider adding something for the player to do, even if it’s just a *fake_choice asking how the player feels about what’s happening.
    • Avoid 400 words or more between choices.

Personally I try not to go over 200-300 words per “page” (until next choice or page_break). But I’m not published author so my approach might be wrong.

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I myself happen to prefer smaller paragraphs, but a lot of times people will overuse the ability to make very small paragraphs (outside of dialogue-heavy conversations where this is appropriate) to the point where it has become a pet peeve for me. I would say, generally, you don’t want a paragraph to be more than 5-7 sentences for best readability on mobile devices, but it is also far more important to me that the structure of the paragraph is grammatical and appropriate for the narrative.

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It doesn’t actually mutter the “words count” (not much at least). Ask yourself theese questions:

  1. Did I say everything?

  2. Was I clear enough?

  3. Did I speak any useless chit chat?

If the answers are not, in order: yes, yes and no… you have to re-write something.

PS in doubt remember: better a text with too many too short paragraphes than a text with too long paragraphes; the latter are very hard to read

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Thank you @Kefs for sharing this.
I guess I already read the Style Guide, but just in case, could you please link the document so I can be sure? Thank you very much :smile:

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Here you go: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Uo3kXWi_v8PG6dZeeUFKAUq50-tBDqYVmKMz5fM2fmo/edit?usp=sharing

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Thank you very much!

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Four lines.

But will, a line of text will be different lengths depending on browser and device so that measurement isn’t consistent across –

Four.

Lines.

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I think what works best is the advice by CoG. I try to keep my pages to 200-300 words. I subdivide these into 3-4 mini-paragraphs. I try to do a maximum of 2 pages before some sort of choice. Personally when I read games that have very long paragraphs and pages, and I have to pay many pages before a choice I rapidly lost interest… fake_choice is your friend to help dilute this problem!

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One of my English teachers said that the ideal paragraph should be five sentences long (this was and is a guideline and not a rule). Later writing classes taught me about the importance of concision, so that the five (give or take) sentences form a paragraph that expresses its point clearly and effectively.

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I think for just basic story progression, keep it shorter, 4-5 sentences. But for descriptive paragraphs about scenery or character design etc, I’d say longer is fine.

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Thank you very much, everyone. :love_letter: I really appreciate your dedication. Your hints are very useful, I will cherish them. :star_struck:

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Personally, I’d go by the CoG style guide, as others have pointed out above. And taking a gander at the published games can help give a better feel for what suitable paragraph lengths look like.

Another thing to keep in mind: longer sentences and paragraphs convey a sense of passivity or calmness, while shorter ones can work well for dynamic or chaotic scenes. For example: a fight scene with long sentences and paragraphs will be clunky and boring, since a fight is more “active” than, say, shopping for groceries.

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Thank you very much, @fabulist . :slight_smile: I’m rewriting a couple of paragraphs following everyone’s advice. :blue_book:

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