LaTeX Paragraph Spacing and Indentation

In this short post, I’ll show you how you can modify the paragraph spacing and indentation in LaTeX. Why would anyone want to change the spacing and indention? Well, if you write a text in Dutch it is customary to leave a blank line after each paragraph and to not indent a new paragraph. This is different from English texts and the default in LaTeX where you do indent new paragraphs and don’t leave a blank line at the end.

To obtain a Dutch paragraph style, you have two options:

1. The package parskip

Include the package parskip in the preamble using following command:

\usepackage{parskip}

This will automatically cancel paragraph indentation and append a blank line at the end.

2. Set the parindent en parskip length

If the previous approach doesn’t work or if you want more fine-grained control, you can manually set the length of the indentation and the height of the blank line. You can do this by putting these commands in the preamble of your document:

\setlength{\parindent}{0pt}
\setlength{\parskip}{1.3ex plus 0.5ex minus 0.3ex}

The first command sets the indentation to 0 and thus cancels paragraph indentation. The second command sets the height of the trailing blank line. This is done using the LaTeX measure ex. One ex corresponds to the height of a lowercase ‘x’ in the current font style. I use 1.3 because I want the height of a capital letter. The “plus 0.5ex minus 0.3ex” part tells LaTeX that it can increase the height with at most 0.5ex and decrease it with maximum 0.3ex to make a decent layout. This means that the minimal height of the blank line is 1ex and the maximum 1.8ex.

And that’s it! Using one of these two options you can change the paragraph spacing and indentation in LaTeX.

The source (in Dutch) I used which has much more LaTeX tips: http://www.ntg.nl/doc/oostrum/latexhnd.pdf (846.7 kB)

About Tom Desair

I'm a Computer Science student and I live in Belgium. I'm passionate about technology, open source and cloud computing and in my spare time I'm an enthusiastic camp leader.
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4 Responses to LaTeX Paragraph Spacing and Indentation

  1. Ravi Kumar says:

    I have to type the following way in LaTeX using commands \noindent and \indent. I am not getting the last line. Please help me out.
    (1) I will come today
         (a) How is going on?
              (i) how are you?

    • Tom Desair says:

      There are actually multiple ways you can do that, depending on what you’re trying to achieve.
      A small example which uses three different possibilities:
      \documentclass[10pt,a4paper]{article}
      \begin{document}
      %Possibility 1
      \noindent (1) I will come today \\
      \indent (a) How is going on? \\
      \indent \indent (i) how are you? \\
      %Possibility 2
      \noindent (1) I will come today \\
      \hspace*{2em} (a) How is going on? \\
      \hspace*{4em} (i) how are you? \\
      %Possibility 3
      \begin{enumerate}
      \item I will come today
      \begin{enumerate}
      \item How is going on?
      \begin{enumerate}
      \item[(i)] how are you?
      \end{enumerate}
      \end{enumerate}
      \end{enumerate}
      \end{document}

      Note that when using \item you can specify the label between square brackets, e.g. [(i)].

      I hope this helps!

      • latex_newbie says:

        this is soooo helpful! I am not the original person who asked this but really, thank you very much! Keep this up, please! :D thanks!

  2. Peter Ellis says:

    Thanks for this, as a complete latex newbie I had exactly this question to be solved pronto and your referral to parskip fixed in an instant something I thought would be an hour’s searching!

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