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After reading why the first paragraph after a headline is typically not indented [1][2], I started to wonder if a paragraph indent after a list or enumeration is appropriate.

I can see two possible argumentations:

  • After a headline, there is always a new paragraph starting. Because this is implicit, you don't have to additionally indent the first paragraph. However, a list does not necessarily denote the start of a new paragraph. Thus, if (and only if) a new paragraph starts right after the list, it has to be indented.

  • After a headline, there is some vertical space. This means the first paragraph is already separated from the previous text. It is an error to use an additional indent. Therefore, if a list is separated from its surrounding text with a vertical space, the next paragraph must not be indented.

Are there typographic rules for this special case? Is this a matter of personal taste?

LaTeX does put a paragraph indent after lists, but not after headlines. But it looks odd to me, and I typically suppress it manually.

  • .. your first bullet point is how I treat lists/paragraphs..... right or wrong, I can't say. However, I've never had any editor correct it over many years and thousands of projects. – Scott Aug 6 at 21:01
  • @Scott As an editor (and as a designer), I do correct just that – the second bullet point is how I’ve always treated indentation. Interestingly, though we generally follow CMoS, I’ve just looked, and the first bullet point seems to be how they advise it. So I guess our house style overrides on that point. I don’t have the same aversion to soft shoulders, though I have no problems with avoiding them either. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 6 at 22:30
  • Thanks @JanusBahsJacquet I actually started looking at the CMoS... can't find my hard copy (which is very old) and don't want to create an account online. :) I've jsut always used bullet 1. Admittedly a bullet formatted list mid paragraph is rare... semicolon or em dash and commas are far more common. – Scott Aug 6 at 22:38
  • @Scott Oh, coming from a publisher that does a lot of linguistics books, mid-paragraph bullet lists are common as muck to me. :-p – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 6 at 22:45
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As explained in the posts you linked, “the point of indenting the first line of paragraphs is to help the reader distinguish adjacent paragraphs when reading or skimming the text.”

So when you have an element (like a list) that clearly separates the paragraphs already, an indentation could easily become unnecessary or even a bad choice. But it would depend on the specific design whether there is a clear separation or not. I wouldn’t wanna set a blanket rule just based on “there is a list and then a paragraph”.

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