[Tex/LaTex] What’s the purpose of paragraph first-line indentation and where is it used


I've asked a typesetter and she didn't even know about first line indentation on subsequent paragraphs.

Neither did I ever encounter it in "real" life but have to struggle with it's removal every other time when facing latex tasks.

Where in western Europe is it usually used?


Best Answer

There are publications that indicate paragraphs by leaving some extra space between them (most often with ragged right typesetting) but I would claim that they are in the minority if you go into a library and open books at random, so I'm a bit surprised you state you have never encountered them in "real" life".

Perhaps your background is CJK scripts in which case the situation is probably different.

The most common approach in "western" typography (which is where TeX originate) is to typeset text justified and (last not least to save space) not to put extra white space between paragraphs. If you do this, then you have the issue that the last line of a paragraph can become completely filled once in a while. To be able to nevertheless always enable the reader to see that a new paragraph has started the first line therefore typically indented by a small amount (and since after a heading this visual clue is unnecessary it is normally left out). That's about the background.

But there is no reason to "struggle" with it. If you do prefer a different style, LaTeX actually makes it easy for you to adjust your documents to any style and there is no need to go \noindent on every paragraph as you might have feared from the description on overleaf (that just describes how to turn it off for individual paragraphs which is sometimes useful. Instead use a package such as parskip or a class that sets up the style you prefer automatically.