Subscribe to The Chicago Manual of Style Online
Manuscript Preparation, Copyediting, and Proofreading
Q. Is it more common to indent or not indent paragraphs? In my writing, I no longer indent and find it old-fashioned. To me, it seems more common now to not indent a paragraph, regardless of whether it is the second paragraph. Is there a rule or style preference nowadays?
A. Indents are important because they show where new paragraphs begin, and since there are logical reasons for dividing text into paragraphs, indents serve as a visual guide to the structure and progress of a document. If a lengthy document has no paragraph indents, and if many of the paragraphs end with lines that go full measure or nearly so, the text may be perceived as one long rambling paragraph. Some published works (like this page) omit indents and put a space between paragraphs instead. This can work for well-designed projects that are typeset or displayed online, but in a regular typed manuscript there will be confusion whenever the space between paragraphs is hidden by a page break. The standard form is still to indent.