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Professionally printed material typically does not indent the first paragraph, but indents those that follow. For example, Robert Bringhurst states that we should "Set opening paragraphs flush left."[4] Bringhurst explains as follows.

"The function of a paragraph is to mark a pause, setting the paragraph apart from what precedes it. If a paragraph is preceded by a title or subhead, the indent is superfluous and can therefore be omitted."[5]

Keyboarders normally indent paragraphs three to five word spaces—based on what they were taught in school—while professionally printed material such as books and magazines generally use smaller indents.[citation needed] The Elements of Typographic Style states that "at least one en [space]" should be used to indent paragraphs after the first,[6] noting that that is the "practical minimum".[7] An em space is the most commonly used paragraph indent.[8] Miles Tinker, in his book Legibility of Print, concluded that indenting the first line of paragraphs increases readability by 7%, on the average.[9]

Other techniques are possible. Lines can be outdented to signify the start of new paragraphs.[10] Another technique is to insert vertical space between paragraphs. This creates what is sometimes known as "block paragraphs". Some keyboarders use a double carriage return to create this break, whereas typists using word processing applications may use increased leading to create a more pleasing space between paragraphs.

Many published books use a device to separate certain paragraphs further when there is a change of scene or time. This extra space, especially when co-occurring at a page or section break, may contain an asterisk, three asterisks, a special stylistic dingbat, or a special symbol known as an asterism....

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