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Writing

How to Write a One-Sentence Paragraph

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Feb 14, 2020 • 3 min read

An author has an expansive toolkit of options when it comes to adding verve to their writing style. Figurative language and expansive vocabulary can enhance a piece of writing, and authors employ those with tools with regularity. Paragraph structure is another way to add variety to your writing.

There is no hard and fast rule about how to compose a single paragraph. English language writing supports long paragraphs—sometimes beginning with a topic sentence, continuing on with several supporting sentences, and ending on a concluding sentence. Short paragraphs are equally common because varying paragraph length helps in holding a reader’s attention. Even single-sentence paragraphs are viable options, and these can be found everywhere from novels to newspapers to academic writing.

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What Is a One-Sentence Paragraph?

A one-sentence paragraph is simply an entire paragraph made of a single sentence. The one-sentence paragraph comes in two varieties:

  1. A paragraph made up of one short sentence that makes its main point transparent.
  2. A paragraph containing one long sentence that contains enough information to sustain three, four, or five sentences.

In the right hands, both varieties can make for a good paragraph. Short one-sentence paragraphs stand out in a piece of writing—they’re literally suspended by paragraph breaks on either side. Longer one-sentence paragraph construction can communicate that information is important and should be consumed in one fell swoop.

2 Examples of One-Sentence Paragraphs

Consider these two examples of one-sentence paragraphs.

Long One-Sentence Paragraph
The first amendment to the United States Constitution contains one long sentence that serves as an entire paragraph:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This information could easily be broken into a group of sentences, but the framers of the Constitution made the intentional choice to make it a single sentence paragraph. Perhaps this was because they believed that each freedom was of equal importance. As such, breaking those freedoms into a number of sentences might have implied a hierarchy that the framers specifically wished to avoid.

Short One-Sentence Paragraph
Short single-sentence paragraph writing is popular in fiction. A short sentence can make words linger in the air and imbue them with importance. Sometimes when describing a heightened emotional moment, an author will isolate that moment in its own one-sentence paragraph. Here are three examples of what this might look like:

Megan’s jaw dropped.

And with that, Leroy buckled over in laughter.

It was the purest sound she’d ever heard.

In each of these instances, the author would go on to resume the action in the following paragraph, satisfied that the emotional emphasis was been made.

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3 Tips for Writing One-Sentence Paragraphs

These three writing tips that can help you harness the power of single sentences:

  1. Use one-sentence paragraphs to communicate urgent information. Longer sentences can make single paragraphs and should be used when all the information in a sentence is too important to be partitioned into multiple sentences.
  2. Use one-sentence paragraphs to add emphasis. Short sentences can also make single paragraphs, and they should be used when you want a piece of information to hover in front of the reader with enhanced emphasis. Online writing also makes ample use of this format; you’ll encounter plenty of blogs loaded with short one-sentence paragraphs.
  3. Use a one-word paragraph for dramatic effect. You can even craft a paragraph from a single word. In literature, giving a word its own paragraph denotes it as important. In creative nonfiction, this technique also works.

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