How to Use Paragraphs Correctly in Business Writing

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In Brief...

There are several different types of paragraphs, but four are primarily used in business writing. To understand what type of paragraph you want to write, you will need to determine the purpose of the document.

Instructions

  1. If you want to inform your reader or explain something, write an expository paragraph. It will give the reader the information needed in order to make a decision. It may be made up of lists of facts, explain instructions, or show cause and effect, or it may show the cause of something and how that affects something else.
  2. To influence or persuade your audience, choose a persuasive paragraph. A persuasive paragraph helps persuade the audience to take a certain action. Persuasive paragraphs are useful in advertising campaigns, proposals for new ideas, and negotiation documents. Emotional appeal is a tactic often seen in a persuasive paragraph.
  3. Descriptive paragraphs are used to describe an idea, person, place, or thing. Descriptive paragraphs, in effect, paint a picture for the reader. Writers using descriptive paragraphs will appeal to the senses by using details and adjectives that invoke mental images for the reader.
  4. When relating a sequence of events or telling a story in chronological order, the narrative paragraph is the correct form. Business documents using narrative paragraphs explain how something occurred or will occur in order to satisfy questions raised by stakeholders, customers, or others.

When writing any kind of lengthy business document, keep the paragraphs short. Two or three sentences, especially if they are compound or compound-complex sentences, are preferred. One reason is to create white space, which is easier on the eye than lines of type, for your reader. Short paragraphs also make it easier for the reader to go back through the document and find important information quickly. Use appropriate headings to guide the reader through the document and organize the paragraphs accordingly under the headings.

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Author: Janie Sullivan

Janie Sullivan, MBA, MAEd, has been teaching adult learners for over 20 years. She has taught online over 15 years, specializing in writing, communications, and small business applications. Janie directs the Center for Writing Excellence where she offers writing, editing, and formatting services for writers. She has been published in several newspapers and magazines as well as multiple online sites. She teaches communication, business strategy, leadership, and management courses. Janie has published a book "Develop and Deliver an Online Class." This is the third book she has written about writing and teaching online. She also has published a novel and an anthology of short stories.

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