Are long paragraphs the reading equivalent to walking long blocks?

One of the claims that Jane Jacobs made was that short blocks are better than long blocks; with blocks broken up, walkers feel like the distances are more manageable. I have always wondered about this claim. Certainly, walking 10 miles in one block would feel different than walking 10 miles of 100 blocks, but 10 miles are still 10 miles. But we should grant that our subjective perception is probably different on shorter distances and Jacobs may be right for all I know.

I was thinking about this problem this morning when I was tackling some particularly long paragraphs written by Leo Strauss in an essay on Plato’s Minos–all terrific, btw. My advisor always urged me to shorten paragraphs, as long paragraphs do not give readers a break or sense of completion, much like long blocks rob walkers of the feeling that they are making progress. I always questioned this; after all, shouldn’t a paragraph be however long it should be in order to communicate what it needs to?

Uh, no, not if my experience re-reading Strauss (an exceptionally fine writer) is any indicator.

2 thoughts on “Are long paragraphs the reading equivalent to walking long blocks?

  1. Short blocks also provide higher connectivity by reducing travel distance. Not sure how that relates to paragrapahs.

    A better analog might be chapters, instead of paragraphs, in that they allow the reader to come to a natural stop at a greater number of places.

  2. In today’s technologically savvy, high speed world, people like things to be quick and to the point. I think this is especially true for the younger generation. So going into the future, I think this will be the preferred method for readers, and writers will be forced to adjust. Make every word countless–the most useful writing advice I have recieved.

    P.S. I prefer long blocks–I not a fan of street crossings.

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