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14 March 2012

Do I need to number my paragraphs?

Are you numbering paragraphs as you write a document?

Maybe you’ve numbered every paragraph so far. You’ve got to 2.1.1 (level 3 numbering) and the indent spacing no longer seems to work. You’re a quarter of the way across a line before starting to write. And you’re wondering what to do next.

Remember, you're writing a crisp business document, not an academic treatise. Take a step back and ask: ‘Do I need to use any subparagraphs and sub-subparagraphs that require paragraph numbering?’ The answer will usually be ‘no’.

You might say, ‘Okay, I’ll use numbering after lead-in text. It can follow my paragraph numbering pattern.’ But what if you only have two points (1.1 and 1.2)? Remember: Paragraphs usually deal with a single theme, while listed bullet points support a central theme. So it might be better for you to use bullet points instead.

Use paragraph numbering sparingly, and then try to keep to level 1 numbering.
After all, as a reader, what would you want to focus on and remember — the numbering or the writer’s words?

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