What does a paragraph usually consist of?
A paragraph usually deals with a single idea. In general, you’ll have an introductory sentence expressing that idea, and several supporting sentences to round it off. Paragraphs are usually about 100 – 200 words long, but there are more exceptions to this rule-of-thumb than you’d expect.
Commercial writing breaks all the rules. Whether or not you find it irritating, your task is to hold your readers’ attention and get them to read what you’ve written. The average person doesn’t like to see solid blocks of text. It looks like it’s going to be difficult to get through, and nobody likes to work harder than they have to.
“White Space” is a great way to make your information look easier to master, and one of the best ways to create “white space” is through using paragraphs. For commercial writing, it’s best to keep sentences short and punchy, and the same goes for paragraphs.
People don’t usually like to see paragraphs that are more than three or four lines long. How many words is that? Again, although it’s not helpful, the answer is “It depends…” Font styles and font size will affect paragraph length – at least from a psychological perspective.
For example, this is a blog post, and I want to keep the reader engaged. The longest paragraph under this heading is only 61 words long. This is the shortest one so far, and it only uses 37 words.
I want to get your attention!
The above paragraph is only six words long, and you can count the words in this one if you like.
To make things easy for your reader, you’ll switch paragraphs every time you switch speakers, for example:
“I don’t know how long a paragraph should be,” said Mary, “but I hope to find out by reading this article.”
“That sounds like a good idea,” John replied, “but don’t let that limit your creativity!”
“Really? Can I bend the rules?”
“The rules are really more like guidelines.”
As you can see, I was able to stop identifying the speakers as soon as the conversation began to flow because John and Mary each had paragraphs to themselves. Neither of them said anything that was even close to 100 words, but it’s still easy to see who said what. Mary’s final paragraph was one word long.
In academic writing, paragraphs will usually consist of the “standard” 100 – 200 words (Burns, 2002). You will begin the paragraph with an idea and then explain it in the light of currently accepted knowledge (Phillips, 2014) with references. Bear in mind that your tutor will want to see some original thought, but will expect it to be motivated according to your reading (Williams et al, 1994). Smith (2004) supports this concept and confirms that academic writing requires longer paragraphs than those generally found in commercial writing or even story-telling. 200 words is really a bit long for any paragraph and since this one is just over 100 words, you’ll soon see why this should be the case (Me, 2015).
Whew! That was a marathon to read, wasn’t it?
How many words per paragraph? It’s really up to you!
As a takeaway, I’d like to suggest that there are absolutely no hard-and-fast rules as to how many words a paragraph should be.
Making them too short, can look a little odd.
This is an excellent example.
But it can work in some cases.
On the other hand, having really long paragraphs might work for you, but not for your reader. A lot of text without “white space” is hard on the eyes, and the brain. I’ve seen blog posts and web pages with absolutely no paragraphs to speak of. Did I want to read them? Not really. It was too difficult to separate the ideas from one another and there just didn’t seem to be a good enough reason to read them if I could find the same information split up into bite-sized chunks that were easier to digest. So, whatever you do, don’t forget the importance of paragraphs – and keep them a bit shorter than this one, unless you’re trying to baffle the reader.
By the way, the above paragraph is “only” 122 words (656 characters) long. Do you see what I mean when I say that longer isn’t always better? I’m ready to bet that you do.
(Photo courtesy of Enokson)
The truth is there is no definitive answer to this question. The number of words it will take to fill a page will depend on a number of factors including the type of font used, the font size, spacing elements, the margins used on the paper, the paragraph length, etc. For example, if the assignment says the writing should be in 10-point font, it’s going to take a greater number of words to fill a page than if the assignment requires a 12-point font.
For those who need a general rule of thumb, a typical page which has 1-inch margins and is typed in 12 point font with standard spacing elements will be approximately 500 words when typed single spaced. For assignments that require double spacing, it would take approximately 250 words to fill the page. For an assignment that requires you to write four pages, you can make the estimation that you’ll need to write approximately 2000 words for a single spaced paper, or 1000 words if the assignment is double spaced. Again, the type of font used can make the word count higher or lower, but it’s a good rule of thumb for those who are simply looking for a general estimation.
Since there can be a large variation on the number of words needed to fill a page, most papers are no longer assigned by page count. They are instead assigned by word count. That is, an assignment, essay or paper will likely be assigned as 1500 – 2000 words rather than 3 – 4 pages. This way it is much more difficult for the writer to “game the system” by using large fonts and excessive spacing to meet the writing criteria.
If you are given a writing assignment with a page number, the best thing to do is go directly to the person who made the assignment and ask for a word count. This will take away all the variations and help ensure your writing assignment meets expectations. If it’s for something informal and you simply need a general guideline, you can find it below.
How many pages is…
The below list is an approximation, and actual pages will differ depending on a number of factors mentioned earlier in this article. Use the below information for a general reference, but don’t assume it will be the case at all times. Here are basic word to pages conversions:
- 500 words is 1 page single spaced, 2 pages double spaced.
- 1,000 words is 2 pages single spaced 4 pages double spaced.
- 1,500 words is 3 pages single spaced, 6 pages double spaced.
- 2,000 words is 4 pages single spaced, 8 pages double spaced.
- 2,500 words is 5 pages single spaced, 10 pages double spaced.
- 3,000 words is 6 pages single spaced, 12 pages double spaced.
- 4,000 words is 8 pages single spaced, 16 pages double spaced.
- 5,000 words is 10 pages single spaced, 20 pages double spaced.
- 7,500 words is 15 pages single spaced, 30 pages double spaced.
- 10,000 words is 20 pages single spaced, 40 pages double spaced.
- 20,000 words is 40 pages single spaced, 80 pages double spaced.
- 25,000 words is 50 pages single spaced, 100 pages double spaced.
- 30,000 words is 60 pages single spaced, 120 pages double spaced.
- 40,000 words is 80 pages single spaced, 160 pages double spaced.
- 50,000 words is 100 pages single spaced, 200 pages double spaced.
- 60,000 words is 120 pages single spaced, 240 pages double spaced.
- 70,000 words is 140 pages single spaced, 280 pages double spaced.
- 75,000 words is 150 pages single spaced, 300 pages double spaced.
- 80,000 words is 160 pages single spaced, 320 pages double spaced.
- 90,000 words is 180 pages single spaced, 360 pages double spaced.
- 100,000 words is 200 pages single spaced, 400 pages double spaced.
Below are basic pages to words conversions:
- 1 page is 500 words single spaced, 250 words double spaced.
- 2 pages is 1,000 words single spaced, 500 words double spaced.
- 3 pages is 1,500 words single spaced, 750 words double spaced.
- 4 pages is 2,000 words single spaced, 1,000 words double spaced.
- 5 pages is 2,500 words single spaced, 1,250 words double spaced.
- 6 pages is 3,000 words single spaced, 1,500 words double spaced.
- 7 pages is 3,500 words single spaced, 1,750 words double spaced.
- 8 pages is 4,000 words single spaced, 2,000 words double spaced.
- 9 pages is 4,500 words single spaced, 2,250 words double spaced.
- 10 pages is 5,000 words single spaced, 2,500 words double spaced.
- 15 pages is 7,500 words single spaced, 3,750 words double spaced.
- 20 pages is 10,000 words single spaced, 5,000 words double spaced.
- 25 pages is 12,500 words single spaced, 6,250 words double spaced.
- 30 pages is 15,000 words single spaced, 7,500 words double spaced.
- 40 pages is 20,000 words single spaced, 10,000 words double spaced.
- 50 pages is 25,000 words single spaced, 12,500 words double spaced.
- 60 pages is 30,000 words single spaced, 15,000 words double spaced.
- 70 pages is 35,000 words single spaced, 17,500 words double spaced.
- 75 pages is 37,500 words single spaced, 18,750 words double spaced.
- 80 pages is 40,000 words single spaced, 20,000 words double spaced.
- 90 pages is 45,000 words single spaced, 22,500 words double spaced.
- 100 pages is 50,000 words single spaced, 25,000 words double spaced.
(Photo courtesy of Horia Varlan)