What do you call a block of consecutive paragraphs?
May 21, 2014 12:15 AM   Subscribe

In writing, there are different units of measure. For example, the letter, the word, the sentence, and the paragraph. There are also sometimes blocks of paragraphs. In each block, there is a single line break between each (indented) paragraph. Between blocks there are multiple linebreaks so that there is some whitespace between the blocks. This seems to be one of the larger units of measure before a chapter. Does anyone know what the official name for a block of paragraphs is (if it even exists)?
posted by jtothes to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In books and documents, a section is a subdivision, especially of a chapter.

Sections are visually separated from each other with a section break, typically consisting of extra space between the sections, and sometimes also by a section heading for the latter section.


In written narrative such as fiction, sections are not usually numbered or named. Section breaks are used to signal various changes in a story, including changes in time, location, point-of-view character, mood, tone, emotion, and pace. As a fiction-writing mode, the section break can be considered a transition, similar to a chapter break.
It's not really "official" (not much in English is), but this nomenclature is mirrored by popular document markup software like LaTeX and iBooks.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:31 AM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

As a novelist, I know that when I want to have multiple scenes in a chapter, I usually double space between scenes to let the reader know that we're going somewhere else, perhaps with someone else, and/or that time is passing.

Multiple letters = words.
Multiple words = sentences.
Multiple sentences = paragraphs.
Multiple paragraphs = scene.
Multiple scenes = chapter.
Multiple chapters = book.

This is the way I see it from a fiction point of view.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 3:29 AM on May 21, 2014

I edit and design/compose long, nonfiction books. I’d refer to what you are talking about as sections. I can totally understand a fiction writer using scene, though.
posted by D.C. at 3:35 AM on May 21, 2014

FWIW, as an editor who's done some book (both print and ebook) formatting, I (and the people I've worked with/for) have always referred to those as scene breaks. This holds true even when the scene doesn't change--some authors use them to show a POV switch, for example.
posted by MeghanC at 6:09 AM on May 21, 2014

Multiple letters = words.
Multiple words = sentences.
Multiple sentences = paragraphs.
Multiple paragraphs = scene.
Scene(s) = section
Section(s) = chapter.
Multiple chapters = book.

Building on John Kennedy Toole Box, I'd do the above.

You can have multiple scenes (or just one) in a section. You can have multiple sections (or just one) in a chapter.

This is reflected in most Word Processing and layout tools.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:06 AM on May 21, 2014

Another vote (academic/nonfiction) for "section," for both book chapters and scholarly journal articles.
posted by amy lecteur at 7:07 AM on May 21, 2014

Section, definitely. (I work in magazine/online publishing.)
posted by limeonaire at 8:12 AM on May 21, 2014

I agree with section - it's even got its own symbol (§). The way I've seen works organized (scientific papers and dissertations and such), a document is broken up into chapters (e.g. 3, 4, 5), a chapter into sections (e.g. 3.1, 3.2, 3.3), and a section into subsections as needed (3.1.1, 3.1.2, etc). There's no formal rule that a section or subsection must consist of multiple paragraphs, but they're always at least one.
posted by wanderingmind at 8:30 AM on May 21, 2014

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