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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." 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."
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. The Elements of Typographic Style states that "at least one en [space]" should be used to indent paragraphs after the first, noting that that is the "practical minimum". An em space is the most commonly used paragraph indent. Miles Tinker, in his book Legibility of Print, concluded that indenting the first line of paragraphs increases readability by 7%, on the average.
Other techniques are possible. Lines can be outdented to signify the start of new paragraphs. 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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