How Many Sentences in a Paragraph?

How many sentences in a paragraph?
There’s often a lot of confusion, but if you’re looking for a general answer to the question, “How many sentences in a paragraph?” the answer is there are 3 to 8 sentences in a paragraph. The important key to take away from this answer is that it’s a rule-of-thumb. If you’re looking for a hard and fast rule, you’re out of luck. A paragraph can consist of a single sentence, and since a single word can be a sentence, you can literally have a paragraph that consists of a single word. Of course, if someone asks you to write a paragraph, they won’t be altogether happy with that, so how much should you write?

What do teachers want to see in a paragraph?

If you’re a student, your teacher or tutor may ask you to write a paragraph without telling you just how long he or she expects it to be. In general, educators like to see a paragraph consisting of at least 5 sentences. Start with a sentence that expresses an idea. Use the next 3 sentences for providing information that supports that idea, and use the final sentence to draw a conclusion.

Why do teachers expect longer paragraphs? Obviously, they want to see that you have acquired knowledge and can think critically. That’s quite difficult to demonstrate with a single sentence! Teachers will sometimes set a rule that all paragraphs should be a certain length, but it’s important to remember that specific paragraph lengths aren’t a prerequisite for acceptable writing.

When do you use shorter paragraphs?

Open just about any book, and you’ll find plenty of short paragraphs. If direct speech is used, there’ll be a new paragraph every time a new speaker starts to talk. News writers also like using short paragraphs. They have to present information in a succinct way and hold the reader’s attention.

Commercial writers know that most people don’t want to read 1,000 words of closely-spaced text in order to see what they are writing about, so they also like to keep sentences and paragraphs short. They’ll even use lots of sub-headers so you can see what each paragraph is about before you read it.

How do I know when to start a new paragraph?

Every time you begin to discuss a new thought that contributes to the overarching theme of your work, you can start a new paragraph. A paragraph will usually consist of a collection of sentences that, when considered as a group, have something in common. As soon as you move on to the next idea, you can begin a new paragraph.

Luckily, you don’t have to agonise about it too much, because as I’ve pointed out, there are no specific rules.

Tips for writing strong paragraphs

It’s best to begin a paragraph with a sentence that defines the topic that will be discussed. Try to keep it fairly simple. If you include too many ideas in your opening sentence, you run the risk of getting tangled in an overly complex and incoherent paragraph. Every sentence in a paragraph should support the first, “topic sentence.” When you begin discussing a new or related topic, start a new paragraph.

The University of North Carolina helps students with paragraph construction by providing them with a 5-step process:

  • Express the idea that the paragraph will cover in a topic sentence.
  • Explain the idea.
  • Use an example.
  • Explain why the example relates to the idea.
  • Draw a conclusion.

Obviously, the recipe has been designed for those who want to write an informative and convincing work. And because these rules aren’t really cast in stone, you’ll find that different institutions give different recommendations.

The debate continues

If we look around, we’ll find that the idea of paragraphs with a minimum of 3-5 sentences and a maximum of 8 is pretty common. But there are some who say that two to three paragraphs per page are best and others who say that 5 to 7 lines will do the job. Meanwhile, journalism students are taught to keep sentences as short as possible, and one sentence paragraphs are considered perfectly acceptable.

There are those who say that using more than one paragraph to discuss an idea is perfectly alright, and since there are no hard and fast rules for paragraphs, I can’t really contradict them. I even found one recommendation that suggested a minimum of 7-10 sentences per paragraph and a maximum of a full page!

How long should your paragraphs be?

Unless you’re busy with academic writing, the length of your paragraphs is up to you. I like shorter paragraphs for informal writing such as this blog post. I like the idea of sticking to one idea per paragraph, and I think that paragraphs make reading and understanding a text a whole lot simpler. Single-sentence paragraphs are great for emphasis.

If you are writing to pass a school, college or university course, I recommend you ask your teacher or professor what’s expected of you. It’s always better to ask in these situations than to try to guess. This is by far the best way to make sure you tailor your writing to what your teacher expects rather than by going by a general rule.

(Photo courtesy of Laura)

35 comments

  1. This doesn’t give me an exact answer. I need an exact answer so I can do my paper! Please tell me exactly how many sentences are in a paragraph so I can finish my 5 paragraph assignment!

    1. There isn’t an exact answer. If you want to be safe and not get marked down, you should write 5 or more sentences for each paragraph.

    2. You’re going to have a rough life it you want exact answers when it comes to English. It’s a fluid language with lots of exceptions to rules, and then exceptions to those exceptions. Many rules are nothing more than general guidelines, but not hard-fast rules. As mentioned above, there is no exact answer to how many sentences there should be in a paragraph and you’ll find this true with a lot of these questions.

  2. Thank you for the general rule of thumb for how many sentences are in a paragraph. I understand it depends on a variety of factors, but the general rule of thumb is quite helpful for me!

    1. It’s good to hear you found this helpful. As stated in the article, there are a lot of factors that can affect the number of sentences in a paragraph and there are no hard set rules, but I’m happy the general rule of thumb is helpful for what you need.

    2. This will depend on the assignment, topic and also what is asked. It is so difficult to answer this without knowing the specifics. I think this article is a great guide to check out when you start writing, but it will never give you a definitive answer as there are far too many variables to take into consideration.

  3. I don’t think this question can ever be answered. It just depends. Sometimes my paragraphs have over 10 sentences and sometimes they have only a few. It just depends what you’re writing about.

  4. This is good information to know. My question is, does it really matter how long each sentence is within the paragraph? For example, if I write eight sentences, but each sentence is only three or four words long, do I need to extend the paragraph so that maybe it has 12 to 14 sentences? On the other hand, if I write long sentences such as 10 to 12 words each, can I get away with only four sentences in the paragraph? Does the length of the sentence matter at all or is this something that I shouldn’t be worried about with my writing?

    1. No! You should separate the paragraphs when there is a change of topic, not based on the number of sentences or the sentence length. If you did it like that, the paragraphs would be quite difficult to read and the flow would be terrible.

    2. These our general rules. Don’t focus on them as much his writing well. That’s really what it all comes down to. If you take the time to write well, it’s not going to matter how many sentences are in each paragraph. If you don’t write well, the number of sentences that you have in each paragraph may be an issue along with a lot of other things. Just write the best that you can and you should be okay.

  5. I think it’s really interesting the flexibility the English language allows for how many sentences are in a paragraph. The fact that there aren’t any set rules and it depends so much on the context of what’s being written makes the English language fluid and alive. Thin how boring English would be if every paragraph had to be the same length with the same number of sentences? Embrace the flexibility which allows you to be creative when writing in English.

    1. Those who are so concerned about getting an exact answer for this question fail to realize what you just said. The reason that there isn’t an exact answer is because the language is so fluid and flexible. It’s what makes English such a fun language. If everything was limited to set rules that couldn’t be broken or played with, English would be such a boring language. Be happy that there isn’t an exact answer for how many sentences are there in a paragraph because if there was an exact answer, English would be a lot more boring overall.

    2. I think that this would help me to learn and teach my students how many sentence in a paragraph are. Allows youto be creativewhen writing in inglish.👍😀👌😎😏

  6. This is the stupidest question I have ever come across. Of course there is no answer. How many sentences in a paragraph will depend on each paragraph that’s written. Even somebody in kindergarten would understand that. Why would anybody even ask a question like this?

    1. Just because it doesn’t make sense to you doesn’t mean that it’s a stupid question. English isn’t my native language so I wasn’t sure if there was a rule about paragraphs. I thought maybe that a paragraph needed a minimum of three sentences so I decided to look it up on the Internet. There are legitimate reasons why somebody like me would want to know the answer to this question.

  7. I try to write a minimum of five sentences per paragraph. I’m not always able to do that depending on what I’m writing, but I think that’s a good goal especially when you’re writing essays for school work. I think by having a goal you end up writing better, but you need to understand that the goal can be broken in certain circumstances. I’m not sure if that will help anybody who comes across this article, but that’s what I do when it comes to paragraphs.

  8. I’m surprised people can get so worked up about a topic that doesn’t have an exact answer. If you need to have an exact answer for everything in life, you’re going to have a hard time. The number of sentences will be different for each person. Nobody writes the same way. And if you write one sentence or ten sentences, neither is wrong.

    1. This is exactly what I was thinking. It’s hilarious that people are getting worked up about how many sentences should be in a paragraph. In the scheme of things, this doesn’t even rate a blip on the radar. Write ans many sentences as you want as long as you can justify why you wrote that many to your professor.

  9. Sometimes it will be stipulated, but if not then it really depends on you to choose the number of sentences that your paragraph needs.

    1. lol. This answer doesn’t say anything just like the article. How many sentences does a paragraph need? 1 to 1000 — take your choice. Basically, as many or as few as you want. This whole article can be summed up as “however many you want.”

  10. I was always taught that there should be five sentences in the paragraph. I understand that there can be more or less, but if you’re shooting for a good paragraph and you’re worried about the number of sentences, five is a good number to shoot for. That gives you the opportunity to do an introduction sentence, three sentences that explain your point, and then a concluding sentence. If you have all of these in a paragraph, it should be a good quality paragraph.

    1. I think the five sentences per paragraph rule is one that teachers use when trying to get students to understand what a paragraph is. It may be a good rule for students who are first learning how to write, but it’s pretty limiting if you try to use it with everything you write. If you’re trying to make your paragraphs 5 sentences long when you’re an adult, you’re limiting your writing creativity.

    2. I was taught 5 sentences when I was in school, but I always found it limiting and often argued with my teacher about it. I think teachers teach it for their own ease instead of helping students expand on creating creative paragraphs. It’s teaching toward the slowest students rather than individual teaching to where each student happens to be in their writing knowledge.

  11. Do people really worry about things like this? This seems so trivial. I mean, I never think about the number of sentences I have in each paragraph when I’m writing. I just write in whatever happens to work is what appears in each paragraph. Do people really take the time to think about how many sentences they have in every paragraph that they write?

    1. I think there are specific instances when this is to be considered, but not for the majority of writing. I came here because I was assigned to write a single paragraph on a topic for school and I wanted to know if there was a limit on the number of sentences I could have in it. I would never normally care, but for this assignment I was curious.

    1. We all get frustrated with school at times, but as with most things in life, you get out of it what you put into it. Learning to get the most out of school even when you may not like it will help you a lot in other aspects of life. Complaining won’t change anything, so you need to find a way to make the best of it.

    1. A teacher can require you do do whatever he/she wants. That doesn’t mean that’s the only way to do it, but you’ll get marked down for not following the instructions correctly. You’d best follow the teacher’s instructions.

  12. I can’t believe some of the stupid comments here. The point of this article is that a paragraph can have different number of sentences depending on the particular type of writing. There is no black and white answer.

  13. I am working on a middle school paper about Benedict Arnold. Is it alright to have a ten sentence paragraph?

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