If a page looks difficult to read, readers in a hurry may skip the best parts, slowing down decision-making and irritating everyone.

Paragraphs are difficult to write and these days—with 140 character Tweets being so popular—hard work to read.

Paragraphs are supposed to communicate results of examining a thesis or a complex question. As one of my best academic friends puts it, essays in paragraphs “unpeel the onion.” Writing paragraphs well takes time, experience, and excellent stylistic skills.

Use Paragraphs for Cause and Effect, Complex/Ambiguous Information

Paragraphs alone can tell a story. It’s the best medium for analyzing complex situations or information with missing pieces—like Roman history—or events that reflect unclear or contradictory trends. A great paragraph describes cause and effect and completes a logic block.

Use Bullets for Technical/Financial Conclusions with Sets and Sub-sets of Supporting Data

Guidelines—think about the optics and the messages before choosing a paragraph or bullets:

  • Use bullets for all lists—requests, factors contributing to a financial outcome, reasons for significant changes.
  • Write paragraphs for stories that connect and explore or for philosophical investigations.

Writing with data improves if you ask “Does this content really deserve a paragraph? Is it complex and inter-connected? Have I told a story or recited facts?” Then pick the right medium for your messages.


Sample Paragraph—Not a Story, Not Complex, Essentially a List

Big Box revenues continue to be relatively strong in the current market environment, primarily due to conveniently offering many non-discretionary items including drug prescriptions. See Big Box Company Financials section below. The subject location will benefit from known market demand due to an existing location near the subject site, the redevelopment of a key interchange of Hwy xxx and Route yyy which are among the main arteries to access beaches and the large scale, mixed use developments planned for the immediately surrounding area.

Bullet Version of Sample Paragraph:

Recommendation Rationale:
Big Box continues to generate positive revenue, despite current market conditions, due to offering convenient access to non-discretionary items as well as drug prescriptions.

  • Proposed new store location offers current and future advantages:
    • Known market demand due to an existing store near the subject site
    • Easy access with redevelopment of main roads used to access beaches
    • Large scale, mixed use development planned for immediate surrounding area

More on writing well in bullets next month!

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