Home > Writing Tips > The Three Sentances Rule

It's a good guideline, in my opinion, but I would also suggest that to find your own rhythm- and the rhythm of each particular story- is the mark of a maturing writer.
I remember reading a rule about looking at your written page from a distance and squinting (or putting it on print preview nowadays) and looking to see of all the paragraphs are about the same size or not. For some reason, this "rule" or suggestion has stuck with me. I try not to put a bunch of similar-sized (either very long or very short) paragraphs together, or try to break them up a little.
Rhythm, as Stella says above.
If you're writing action sequences, shorter paragraphs are better (too much action in one block gets confusing), if you're writing description, longer paragraphs are better because you're keeping the detail all in one place (and if your paragraph is enormous, you know to cut back on the long winded description!).
Some very brilliant suggestions there.

I must say, as I've changed as a writer, I've adapted the rule. I tend to allow longer for more emotive sequences (getting into the characters heads) and shorter for action or fast paced scenes.

As Stella and Nightspore correctly say, it's about finding yoor own style and pace as a writer. Use whatever fits best, but this little rule is a smart place to start.

Following what Nightspore says: I like to treat a page as a stone wall. Generally, the 3-sentences-and-up rule is the best to adopt, and it also saves one from falling into Melodramatic One-Liner syndrome. You've seen the type:

He knocked.

There was no answer.

It's so easy to fall into that trap, but those oneliners are breeding grounds for clichés.

However, they have their place. Think about a brick wall verses a stone wall. Brick walls are structurally sound, but boring: all the bricks are the same size, placed in the same way. Stone walls have large stones, medium stones, small stones. Too many small stones make the wall brittle, choppy, prone to crumbling. Lots of big blocky stones leave gaps and tend to crack under their own weight. A stone wall containing a healthy mix of the three provides the most visual interest.

I like to glance over my stories and see if I've got a balanced blend of different-sized paragraphs, and within each paragraph, a mix of complex and simple sentences. Being OC, I go right down to the word on this, playing with monosyllables verses polysyllables, long and stort sounds to fit the action.

In other words, if you know anything about poetry, adapt some of the same techniques to add music and rhythm to your prose.
Very short sentences do work for tension and highlighting importance, when used sparingly. Used all the time, of course, and for trivial things, and it just gets stupid.
I think most people here misread the idea. He said to make it three lines. Now, I take that to mean no less than three lines. One liners do not look nice on the page. And, they are fairly remeniscent of scripting which is not really a story, anyway. A good dialogue paragraph would have what was said, who said it and how they said it.
An example would be:

“When one comes to speak to you, try not to scare him away.” The twinkle in her eyes belied the seriousness of her tone. He froze, not knowing what to do. At the small smile tugging on her lips, he burst out laughing.

Now, this is out of context to the scene, but you see that the three line idea is better than just her words.

As for actual rules, I do not think there is an actual rule for how many sentences to write in a paragraph. However, I have a book that runs one over two pages. On the other hand, I do not like on line paragraphs. So, a balance must be struck. The idea of a paragraph is to encompass an idea or a thought. If either change, then you start a new paragraph. That is the only hard and fast rule you need.

Oh, and if the site does not do it automatically, then a break between the paragraphs is necessary. Otherwise, you end up wil one long paragraph. That is daunting and will cause readers to avoid your story.