Writing something in the English language can be a bit of a grammatical nightmare.
It often takes us years to learn how to write properly, all the rules within sentences and the punctuation marks are something that many native speakers take for granted in their adult years.
But sometimes we do forget about what can be used where and when it is appropriate to use a punctuation point.
Paragraph breaks are a punctuation point that is scarcely known by most people, and as such many people simply don’t know how to use them or even what they are.
In today’s article, we seek to inform people about paragraph breaks, what exactly they are, and how you should be using them in your pieces of writing.
What Is A Paragraph Break?
Realistically, you probably use paragraph breaks a lot more than you think you do.
That’s because a paragraph break is simply a single line or indentation (maybe even both if you so choose) that marks a division between the last paragraph and the next body of text (usually another paragraph).
This may seem simple enough to most readers, but paragraph breaks are incredibly important in writing and probably one of the most crucial punctuation points that exists.
Think about a couple of pages from a book, any book. The text on those pages is broken up by paragraph breaks, and if they were not, the resulting text would be difficult and confusing to read and digest as a reader.
There are a couple of books that deliberately omit paragraph breaks to have a confusing and garbled effect, mostly books where the narrator is unreliable or is using a stream of consciousness.
But this is an effect that is deliberately imposed, and in most cases reading without one is not only difficult but physically and mentally draining.
A paragraph break also helps to highlight different points of interest or things to focus on in the text. This section of the article is a good example.
We introduced the section telling you what a paragraph break was, then we focused on why they were important, before moving onto a paragraph admitting that they can be left out for certain purposes, which lead us to this paragraph giving examples of paragraph breaks, after which we will use a paragraph break to start a new section entirely.
Using Paragraph Breaks Appropriately
If you are new to using paragraph breaks or have never used them consciously, then it may be confusing to know when to use them at all. If this is the case, then the following points should help you understand when to use them and why you should use them:
– When you start a new idea or point: We’ve already gone over this a little, but in summary, it helps highlight your point and draws focus to it.
– To show contrast between ideas or information: If you put all the information or ideas that you have in one big chunk of text, it can be hard for our brains to see them as contrasting pieces.
If you separate information or ideas with paragraph breaks, you make it easier for the reader to decipher the disparity between the two.
– Giving your readers a break: Reading can be mentally draining, even with stuff we enjoy. Sometimes a reader will just need a place to take a break and know where to come back to, or a place where they can understand when something has ended.
– For the introduction or conclusion: The introduction and conclusion are two unique paragraphs in pieces of text, and so they need to be highlighted as such. Paragraph breaks are a great way to do this.
If you are still a little confused about when and where to use paragraph breaks, think about when you want to break up information or form a distinction between two different points.
If you are writing a fiction piece about someone having a picnic under a tree next to a river, then after you have finished describing the scene and want to move on to dialogue or writing some action that occurs, then put in a paragraph break.
If you are writing a nonfiction piece about a national park trail in Utah and want to move on to describing the wildlife of the national park, then put in a paragraph break.
Just judge where the point has ended, and the next one begins to understand where to put in paragraph breaks.
History Of Paragraph Breaks
Paragraph breaks have been around for a long time, but not as long as writing has. In fact, in the early days of writing, there were no paragraph breaks.
Just long texts of writing, which made it hard for modern scholars to decipher what the ancient Sumerians, Babylonians, and Egyptians were trying to say – among other reasons.
The first people to put in a true paragraph break were the Ancient Greeks, who used an underscore at the beginning of a new paragraph to signify it was one.
This evolved into a pilcrow in the Middle Ages in English, or a Hedera leaf in French.
Eventually, during the Enlightenment and Georgian eras, an indent at the beginning of a new paragraph signified a paragraph break, the most famous example of this being in the United States Constitution.
In the Victorian era, the final form of paragraph breaks became apparent, when writers (while still using indentation) would simply leave a line to show that the paragraph had ended and a new one had started.
This is probably because the Victorian times were when writing became much more widespread and was not just relegated to the upper class or the clergy, meaning more people were adapting and changing it.
Paragraph breaks are an extremely important piece of punctuation that shows when a paragraph has ended and when a new paragraph is beginning in a piece of writing.
They help to illustrate points, bring focus to an idea, contrast two opinions, or simply to give the reader a break from the body of the text.