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Why do paragraphs matter?

Craig234

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I've always found a wall of text to be unappealing.
As probably everyone does. But you missed the thread topic. Why can't you just stop reading when you want and take a pause, instead of a paragraph?
 

Spirit of The Millennium

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This wasn't about 'sides'; it was about how it seems everyone prefers paragraphing, but why it's as hard to read without them as it is. Why can't people read a paragraph worth, pause, then read more? Yet it's hard.

Everyone prefers paragraphing TO them, however not everyone has the mental discipline to form paragraphs themselves, preferring the flow of consciousness. It may be gibberish to anyone else, but they have the satisfaction of "saying what they mean". And that disparity is bad, because it impedes communication and invites misunderstanding.


As probably everyone does. But you missed the thread topic. Why can't you just stop reading when you want and take a pause, instead of a paragraph?

If you really believed that, you wouldn't bother with sentences and punctuation.

Paragraphs are just like sentences, for slightly longer-form writing.

See what I just did? The second paragraph is not just a continuation, nor a repetition, of the first. I questioned your current belief in paragraph one. I layed out my alternative belief in paragraph two. And now I'm doing some meta shit ... to be honest I might have run it off the rails BUT the previous two paragraphs still stand.

BTW, Bernie speaks in paragraphs, though that doesn't work so well on a crowded debate floor (he gets interrupted).
 

Argent

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Why can't you just stop reading when you want and take a pause, instead of a paragraph?
They're visual clues that the topic is changing.
People have short attention spans and walls of text may cause them to stop reading.
Theyservethesamefunctionasspacebetweenwordsallowingorganizationofthougtsandnotingchangeofsubject.It'sdifficultforsomepeopletodiscernchangesanddeterminemeaningwithouttheaidofspaces.
 

PIPEWRENCH

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As probably everyone does. But you missed the thread topic. Why can't you just stop reading when you want and take a pause, instead of a paragraph?
I think we have become accustomed to reading with paragraphs. I think if raised from a child never using or knowing about paragraphs I think we would be able to read just fine. I am sure our brain would adapt just the same as we have adapted to having paragraphs.
 

Spirit of The Millennium

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I think we have become accustomed to reading with paragraphs. I think if raised from a child never using or knowing about paragraphs I think we would be able to read just fine. I am sure our brain would adapt just the same as we have adapted to having paragraphs.

Um. Reading Jane Austen or Aldous Huxley with ANY degree of distraction around, requires me to put my finger on the place I'm up to in one of their long paragraphs. By contrast, the brain quite easily keeps track of how many paragraphs down the page one is, aided I think by the unique shape at the end of each paragraph.

Maybe this isn't so relevant with scalable pages like we use here. On a phone, even quite short paragraphs (like the above) may appear as the dreaded Wall O Text. I will try to be considerate!

Someone more qualified in literacy teaching might like to tackle shape recognition as the foundation of reading. Any competent reader recognizes whole words without having to look at every letter, it's why we can be ride right over typos so easily, even the ones a spell checker has no idea about.
 

Craig234

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They're visual clues that the topic is changing.
People have short attention spans and walls of text may cause them to stop reading.
Theyservethesamefunctionasspacebetweenwordsallowingorganizationofthougtsandnotingchangeofsubject.It'sdifficultforsomepeopletodiscernchangesanddeterminemeaningwithouttheaidofspaces.
It's not quite that simple, though. And they still have spaces and punctuation - commas and so on.
 

Spirit of The Millennium

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It's not quite that simple, though. And they still have spaces and punctuation - commas and so on.

Can't you just see the paragraph as a form of punctuation?

Being a carriage return and a line feed (or two line feeds) they literally ARE punctuation. Invisible punctuation. And before you rebut that punctuation can't be invisible, bear in mind your addiction to spaces! And colored text: the formatting punctuation itself is invisible.
 

Rogue Valley

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As probably everyone does. But you missed the thread topic. Why can't you just stop reading when you want and take a pause, instead of a paragraph?

Flip that. Why can't the author simply insert paragraphs?

This provides that author with far more control over how the narrative flows.
 

justabubba

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I think we have become accustomed to reading with paragraphs. I think if raised from a child never using or knowing about paragraphs I think we would be able to read just fine. I am sure our brain would adapt just the same as we have adapted to having paragraphs.
excellent observation
wiping our asses with toilet paper is another unnecessary, tho positive, intrusion on our lives we could end. we're adaptable
 

Rogue Valley

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You are totally missing the thread topic.

Then you are clearly not expressing it in digestable terms.

Paragraphs have been part and parcel of writing long before you and I arrived on the scene.
 

Rogue Valley

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excellent observation
wiping our asses with toilet paper is another unnecessary, tho positive, intrusion on our lives we could end. we're adaptable

I'll let you take the lead here. Not wiping will result in an accumulation of feces around the anus. Things will undoubtedly get smelly and underwear will be soiled. But these immediate downsides will be the least of your problems. Cracked skin, abscesses, pustules, and painful infections will eventually follow.

You could always purchase a bidet.
 

Craig234

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Then you are clearly not expressing it in digestable terms.

I think I did, repeatedly. I'm not sure how to make it clearer other than the same statements. It's as if I raised the topic, "why do cats try to bury their poop and dogs don't", and you responded "cats have been doing that for a long time".
 

Craig234

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For a thread about the cognitive issues of white space, the posts have really had more than expected poop discussion. See the last two posts.
 

Chomsky

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This wasn't about 'sides';

Fair enough.

it was about how it seems everyone prefers paragraphing, but why it's as hard to read without them as it is. Why can't people read a paragraph worth, pause, then read more? Yet it's hard.

The raison d'etre of most non-artistic writing is to communicate your ideas. Proper paragraphing facilitates that communication. It makes it easier to understand.

Often this involves each paragraph having a central idea, that involves a topic sentence leading in, the main body where the topic sentence is expounded upon and evidence is presented, and then a concluding sentence. A paragraph is a mini form of the greater essay, where the essay has a topic paragraph, a body, and a concluding paragraph.

Obviously, I'm generalizing.

But the underlying premise is to facilitate the clearest & easiest understanding for the reader. And it is generally believed paragraphing assists in this. As a reader, I personally find that to be true.

And specifically where you state,

"Why can't people read a paragraph worth, pause, then read more?"

You lost me. I understood from your OP that you were arguing to eschew paragraphing. Is that right?
 

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Fair enough.



The raison d'etre of most non-artistic writing is to communicate your ideas. Proper paragraphing facilitates that communication. It makes it easier to understand.

Often this involves each paragraph having a central idea, that involves a topic sentence leading in, the main body where the topic sentence is expounded upon and evidence is presented, and then a concluding sentence. A paragraph is a mini form of the greater essay, where the essay has a topic paragraph, a body, and a concluding paragraph.

Obviously, I'm generalizing.

But the underlying premise is to facilitate the clearest & easiest understanding for the reader. And it is generally believed paragraphing assists in this. As a reader, I personally find that to be true.

And specifically where you state,

"Why can't people read a paragraph worth, pause, then read more?"

You lost me. I understood from your OP that you were arguing to eschew paragraphing. Is that right?
While I agree can you use proper paragraphs and still just be rambling on about nothing? I have typed half a page and deleted the whole thing because I did not know where I was going with it.
 

Craig234

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You lost me. I understood from your OP that you were arguing to eschew paragraphing. Is that right?

No, that's incorrect.

Let me explain with an analogy. Let's say I find that putting two commas in a row instead of one makes people have a big reaction like gasping and throwing down the material.

Then I ask the question, "why does it have that big a reaction? I understand people could find it of course incorrect and say 'that's not right', but why the far stronger reaction?"

By asking that I'm not trying to get people to use two commas in a row. I'm discussing something about the reaction to it. That's the topic here. Of COURSE it's clear why there are paragraphs. The topic is why it's so much harder than you'd expect for people to read text by simply deciding to pause when they want as if there were paragraphs - it seems much much harder to read without them than you'd expect.
 

Chomsky

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No, that's incorrect.

Let me explain with an analogy. Let's say I find that putting two commas in a row instead of one makes people have a big reaction like gasping and throwing down the material.

Then I ask the question, "why does it have that big a reaction? I understand people could find it of course incorrect and say 'that's not right', but why the far stronger reaction?"

By asking that I'm not trying to get people to use two commas in a row. I'm discussing something about the reaction to it. That's the topic here. Of COURSE it's clear why there are paragraphs. The topic is why it's so much harder than you'd expect for people to read text by simply deciding to pause when they want as if there were paragraphs - it seems much much harder to read without them than you'd expect.

Ah, alright, fair enough now. I didn't get the full meaning of your OP. Maybe you needed to use better paragraphing???


:p :p :p

--

Let's touch on this statement, below:

The topic is why it's so much harder than you'd expect for people to read text by simply deciding to pause when they want as if there were paragraphs -

I believe you've answered your own question, here.

when not paragraphing, you are expecting the reader to discern your points & ideas, rather than you presenting them. They have to work, deduce, and often simply guess. It's a lot of work, confusing, and frustration.

Quite honestly, the problem of not paragraphing is easily apparent (to me).

The above rationale is also why I'm big on punctuation, formatting, and also use a fair mount of italics, underlining, enumeration, and other embellishments in my writing. I'm doing my best to communicate to my reader, and all these things, including paragraphing, facilitate that. Proper (and full!) vocabular doesn't hurt, either.
 

Craig234

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The above rationale is also why I'm big on punctuation, formatting, and also use a fair mount of italics, underlining, enumeration, and other embellishments in my writing. I'm doing my best to communicate to my reader, and all these things, including paragraphing, facilitate that. Proper (and full!) vocabular doesn't hurt, either.

It sounds like you're still not quite getting the topic. Let's try again.

Let's take a sentence with commas, some words, some more words, some more words again.

Now, let's discuss it without commas some words some more words some more words again.

The question you are answering is, 'do commas make it better?' Yes, of course they do. So you think you answered the issue; you haven't.

Now, imagine your response to the above sentence without commas was that you couldn't finish reading it. You tried. I said, but can't you just read it, and while it's not as easy to read, decide to pause a little when you want - some words (you decide to pause), some more words (you decide to pause), and some more words again.

The question isn't, which is better. The question is, shouldn't it only be somewhat worse - and not have you say it was such a burden you were having a hard time doing it? Why is it so much harder than expected, even though it's expected it is somewhat worse? Why can't you choose to pretend it has commas and instead have a hard time doing that?

Now I assume in that example, it was more as expected. You could read the sentence without commas, and it was worse, but like expected. You could read it even though you found it worse than with commas. No issue.

But paragraphs seem to have a more powerful effect than expected, making it quite hard to read the text. Raising the question I asked, why do they not only 'help', but instead are so important that the effect is much larger than expected where you almost cannot 'add your own paragraph breaks' pausing when you want, which should be doable and only 'somewhat harder', not as much as it turns out?
 

Chomsky

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It sounds like you're still not quite getting the topic. Let's try again.

I guess.

Let's take a sentence with commas, some words, some more words, some more words again.

Now, let's discuss it without commas some words some more words some more words again.

The question you are answering is, 'do commas make it better?' Yes, of course they do. So you think you answered the issue; you haven't.

Now, imagine your response to the above sentence without commas was that you couldn't finish reading it. You tried. I said, but can't you just read it, and while it's not as easy to read, decide to pause a little when you want - some words (you decide to pause), some more words (you decide to pause), and some more words again.

What's happening, from the reader's perspective, is it is difficult or impossible to understand the meaning you're attempting to convey.

In some short obvious cases, the reader may have to work harder. In other's, the reader may be pushed to the point of simply not being able to ascertain what it is you're attempting to communicate.

The question isn't, which is better. The question is, shouldn't it only be somewhat worse - and not have you say it was such a burden you were having a hard time doing it? Why is it so much harder than expected, even though it's expected it is somewhat worse? Why can't you choose to pretend it has commas and instead have a hard time doing that?

You're missing the point; the problem may be bigger than causing the reader to "work harder". The reader may not be able to correctly figure out the meaning of the prose. if there's more than one meaning to be interpreted, there's no meaning!

Now I assume in that example, it was more as expected. You could read the sentence without commas, and it was worse, but like expected. You could read it even though you found it worse than with commas. No issue.

That's not a valid assumption in all cases, though.

But paragraphs seem to have a more powerful effect than expected, making it quite hard to read the text. Raising the question I asked, why do they not only 'help', but instead are so important that the effect is much larger than expected where you almost cannot 'add your own paragraph breaks' pausing when you want, which should be doable and only 'somewhat harder', not as much as it turns out?

Paragraphs don't just organize ideas; they relate ideas & subjects to each other. When there is no organization of your ideas, readers get lost. They get lost if they can't figure out the relationships between subjects, objects, and ideas. Think of it as similar to dangling participles, all strung together! What relates to what? Who knows!

--

I think part of the backlash here, with some like myself, is you seem to believe the deficiencies in writing that you're describing, like lack paragraphing & punctuation, can be understood by readers if they simply expend a bit more effort. I'm arguing that isn't necessarily the case, as the meaning may be indecipherable.

Remember again, if written communication can be deciphered with more than one meaning, then it communicates nothing. And, that is the problem.
 

Craig234

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Remember again, if written communication can be deciphered with more than one meaning, then it communicates nothing. And, that is the problem.

I find you claiming a lot more communicated by paragraphs than is usually the case.

"Bill was hungry. So he went to the grocery.

He looked for a nice pasta, and found a new tomato sauce. He got it with some parmesan.

It took a while to cook, but was tasty."

You are suggesting that someone simply cannot make sense of that if it's written, "Bill was hungry. So he went to the grocery. He looked for a nice pasta, and found a new tomato sauce. He got it with some parmesan. It took a while to cook, but was tasty." And the reader decides to pause at the same places. That makes little sense. The same meaning other than 'pause a moment here' is there with the same words in the same order, and other punctuation.
 

Rogue Valley

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Remember again, if written communication can be deciphered with more than one meaning, then it communicates nothing. And, that is the problem.

That fairy well sums up the greatest deficiency in this experiment.
 

Chomsky

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I find you claiming a lot more communicated by paragraphs than is usually the case.

"Bill was hungry. So he went to the grocery.

He looked for a nice pasta, and found a new tomato sauce. He got it with some parmesan.

It took a while to cook, but was tasty."

You are suggesting that someone simply cannot make sense of that if it's written, "Bill was hungry. So he went to the grocery. He looked for a nice pasta, and found a new tomato sauce. He got it with some parmesan. It took a while to cook, but was tasty." And the reader decides to pause at the same places. That makes little sense. The same meaning other than 'pause a moment here' is there with the same words in the same order, and other punctuation.

You're using simplistic examples.

Try 500 or 5000 words w/o a break.
 
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