Ms. Peterson and writing for mobile

Journal being written in by a hand holding a pen

Photo by ynsle @

A project I worked on recently re-taught me something I learned way back in high school English – but only because I’d gotten a big, fat, red “F” on a term paper.

At the time, I was crushed.

How could it be that, after spending time reviewing my draft with me, my teacher, Ms. Peterson – who’d even told me she’d not seen some of the perspective I’d presented on that classic work – still gave me an “F”?

Ms. Peterson: Nydia, I couldn’t even read it. It was all in one paragraph.
Little, na├»ve me: So what’s the problem?
Ms. Pete: You can’t write a paper all in one paragraph. Every new idea starts a new paragraph. Give it back to me that way tomorrow and I’ll change your grade.

Ever had that Why-didn’t-anyone-ever-tell-me-that-before feeling? Yeah, that one.

One idea, one paragraph – or less?
These days, the one-idea-per-paragraph rule applies more than ever. With more people accessing the web via mobile, most ideas need to be broken down, sometimes to one sentence per paragraph. (I don’t do it often, but it can be helpful, especially in longer-form pieces.)

After all, what fits on a web page doesn’t necessarily look as good on the screen of a handheld device.

Chop, chop
It feels choppy to write like this sometimes, but when I look it over on my phone, for example, I know that if someone can finish a paragraph there, they’ve completed a thought. That means they’re more likely to finish the article.

So if you’ve gotten this far, thank you. Clearly, Ms. Pete gets at least partial credit for it.

10 thoughts on “Ms. Peterson and writing for mobile

  1. Thank you, Mrs. Peterson. If there’s one thing I have little patience for these days, it is lo-o-o-ong paragraphs in online writing.

    I’ll read David Foster Wallace’s page-long one-sentence paragraphs and swoon, but, buddy, on my phone, chop chop!

    Great post, Nydia! (My auto correct thinks your name is Nudie. LOL)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Is texting influencing the way we read? I wondered this as I have forced myself to pay attention in long posts. Lately, Hemmingway has been my editor. My grade level for the writing has plummeted, but I am paying attention to the structure. The writer (son) sniffs condescendingly at the use of Hemmingway as a writing tool. (I imagine others notice the simplistic tone, too.) There are reasons, one being getting the words “mobile”.


    • I think it totally is. Our minds probably tell us everything comes in snippets, as a result. My book reading had really dropped off until the last couple of years, when I had to remind myself I *do* still love long form, too! It all has its place, IMO.


    • I forgot to mention – my mom used to write shorthand when she worked in her younger years. While she doesn’t text per se now, she all but does it in her Facebook posts. It’s kind of funny – we’re not the first to abbreviate that way, I guess.

      Even the Mexican parish records I reference in my family history research have some pretty crazy shortcuts.

      Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting, Nancy!


  3. So much conversation lately about how we write and communicate online..I am actually happy to see it emerging…hoping consistencey is next… at the end of a session i am increasingly dizzy with all the different platforms and options that are flying about… okay one step at a time:) Thanks for another good post..Cheers,e


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