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A separate paragraph is used in the following instances: when writing dialogue, for each character's speech, for each idea being presented or discussed, when advancing the plot, describing a scene, developing character, and narrating action that takes place. A double carriage return will leave a clear space between paragraphs. Examples follow:

Writing dialogue

Ellen opened the front door and saw Marion sitting on the porch swing. "How long have you been here?" she asked in surprise.

"Oh, about half an hour, I guess."

"Why didn't you ring the doorbell? I'd have come and let you in ages ago!"

Marion smiled up at her. "I didn't want to. I was early, and you weren't expecting me then. Since the weather is so lovely, I decided to relax while I was waiting for you. Are you ready to go now?" she asked, getting to her feet and gathering up her jacket and handbag.

Ideas or plans being presented or discussed

As I told you in my previous letter, we are making plans for a vacation in England this summer. As of now, we have established the dates, and booked our flights. We're still undecided whether to rent a car when we get there, or try and get around using the train system. Since we won't be leaving for another six weeks, we still have a bit of time in which to decide.

For the moment one of the most important things I must do is find someone who would be willing to stay in our house while we are away. There are the dog and cat to be looked after, the garden to be tended to, and it is just reassuring to know the house won't be sitting empty during the summer vacation. Empty houses are so vulnerable to unwanted visitors! There are usually some exchange students taking language courses at the University during the summer months, and it seems to me there is a housing registry that helps to find them lodgings, so I am thinking of registering there. It would be perfect if we could find a reliable summer student to stay in the house in exchange for caring for the animals and doing some yard work while we are away.

Advancing the plot


Three seconds before the arrival of J. B. Hobson`s letter I no more thought of pursuing the unicorn than of attempting the passage of the North Sea. Three seconds after reading the letter of the honourable Secretary of Marine, I felt that my true vocation, the sole end of my life, was to chase this disturbing monster and purge it from the world.

But I had just returned from a fatiguing journey, weary and longing for repose. I aspired to nothing more than again seeing my country, my friends, my little lodging by the Jardin des Plantes, my dear and precious collections--but nothing could keep me back! I forgot all--fatigue, friends and collections--and accepted without hesitation the offer of the American Government.

"Besides," thought I, "all roads lead back to Europe; and the unicorn may be amiable enough to hurry me towards the coast of France. This worthy animal may allow itself to be caught in the seas of Europe (for my particular benefit), and I will not bring back less than half a yard of his ivory halberd to the Museum of Natural History." But in the meanwhile I must seek this narwhal in the North Pacific Ocean, which, to return to France, was taking the road to the antipodes.

Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues

Describing a scene and developing a character


It was a genteel old-fashioned house, very quiet and orderly. From the windows of my room I saw all London lying in the distance like a great vapour, with here and there some lights twinkling through it. I had only time, in dressing, to glance at the solid furniture, the framed pieces of work (done, I supposed, by Steerforth's mother when she was a girl), and some pictures in crayons of ladies with powdered hair and bodices, coming and going on the walls, as the newly-kindled fire crackled and sputtered, when I was called to dinner.

There was a second lady in the dining-room, of a slight short figure, dark, and not agreeable to look at, but with some appearance of good looks too, who attracted my attention: perhaps because I had not expected to see her; perhaps because I found myself sitting opposite to her; perhaps because of something really remarkable in her. She had black hair and eager black eyes, and was thin, and had a scar upon her lip. It was an old scar - I should rather call it seam, for it was not discoloured, and had healed years ago - which had once cut through her mouth, downward towards the chin, but was now barely visible across the table, except above and on her upper lip, the shape of which it had altered. I concluded in my own mind that she was about thirty years of age, and that she wished to be married. She was a little dilapidated - like a house - with having been so long to let; yet had, as I have said, an appearance of good looks. Her thinness seemed to be the effect of some wasting fire within her, which found a vent in her gaunt eyes.

She was introduced as Miss Dartle, and both Steerforth and his mother called her Rosa. I found that she lived there, and had been for a long time Mrs. Steerforth`s companion. It appeared to me that she never said anything she wanted to say, outright; but hinted it, and made a great deal more of it by this practice. For example, when Mrs. Steerforth observed, more in jest than earnest, that she feared her son led but a wild life at college, Miss Dartle put in thus:

"Oh, really? You know how ignorant I am, and that I only ask for information, but isn't it always so? I thought that kind of life was on all hands understood to be - eh?"

Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

Narrating action that takes place


"I have been in the streets from the first, nothing has stopped me, I will tear you to pieces, but I will have you from that door," said Madame Defarge.

"We are alone at the top of a high house in a solitary courtyard, we are not likely to be heard, and I pray for bodily strength to keep you here, while every minute you are here is worth a hundred thousand guineas to my darling," said Miss Pross.

Madame Defarge made at the door. Miss Pross, on the instinct of the moment, seized her round the waist in both her arms, and held her tight. It was in vain for Madame Defarge to struggle and to strike; Miss Pross, with the vigorous tenacity of love, always so much stronger than hate, clasped her tight, and even lifted her from the floor in the struggle that they had. The two hands of Madame Defarge buffeted and tore her face; but, Miss Pross, with her head down, held her round the waist, and clung to her with more than the hold of a drowning woman.

Soon, Madame Defarge`s hands ceased to strike, and felt at her encircled waist. "It is under my arm," said Miss Pross, in smothered tones, "you shall not draw it. I am stronger than you, I bless Heaven for it. I hold you till one or other of us faints or dies!"

Madame Defarge's hands were at her bosom. Miss Pross looked up, saw what it was, struck at it, struck out a flash and a crash, and stood alone--blinded with smoke.

All this was in a second. As the smoke cleared, leaving an awful stillness, it passed out on the air, like the soul of the furious woman whose body lay lifeless on the ground.

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities