Text in columns with blank lines on top of columns

I've have a text, that might change, with many short paragraphs. They are flowing through five columns on every page. Most of them have a blank line between the paragraphs – but not all have – and that makes my problem.

  • As most have blank lines, but not all – I am unable to remove blank lines and then use paragraph styles to add blank space before/after paragraph.
  • Text is also "justify with last line aligned to left", so I cannot replace hard line break with soft line break were paragraphs don't have blank lines between (this would also involve some unwanted manual work, even though an advanced search and replace is possible).

This is repeating work, with a lot of text, so being able to have this automated in InDesign would be nice. The only way I have thought of is to use two paragraph styles – one for paragraphs with white space before (and then use space before in paragraph styles), and one for those without. But as this is delivered as plain text – with the risk of a updated text being delivered – a more "automatic" way would be preferred.

Does anyone know of a way to make InDesign automatically "hide" the blank lines if they are at the top of a column?

1 Answer 1


The proper way, in my opinion, to typeset such paragraphs/columns is to use the Space After options for a paragraph style. Creating one paragraph style with the space, and one without the space. Then it's a simple matter to assign the paragraph style to the paragraphs.

Using the Space After option, you will NEVER have an empty line feed at the top of any column (because it's space after not an actual line feed).

What I would do is simply select all and apply the Space After paragraph style. Then I'd manually drop the cursor into any paragraph needing the non space style and apply it (using a set shortcut).

This may take a bit of time, but there's no substitute for craftsmanship.

I suppose you could script something to see empty lines and assign a space after style to the preceding paragraph then remove the empty line. I'd have to look into creating such a script. But I'm sure a basic internet search would turn something up.

Actually, you could probably use GREP to find the line feeds and replace them with nothing.... but then you've got the odd paragraphs that don't need space still.

From comment by @JanusBahsJacquet:

Just search for double paragraph marks (^p^p) and then replace with single paragraph mark (^p) formatted to the "Space After" paragraph style.

So I would create 2 paragraph styles -- One with space after and one without -- Select all and apply the style without the space. Then use GREP to apply the other style as outlined above.

  • 3
    Just search for double paragraph marks (^p^p, or in GREP \p\p) and then replace with single paragraph marks formatted to the space after paragraph style – that should do it. You could even save that as a GREP search/replace so you could repeat it in an instant whenever the text changes. Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 11:07
  • @Scott : Thanks for answering. You are right - there is no substitute for craftsmanship. Still – this is a series of long listings being processed monthly. I see that you end up with the same solution mentioned in my OP. Guess that the easiest way is to style all paragraphs with style with space before (easiest in my case to use before as the "hint" to no space before lies in the second paragraph). Then as a second step identify the paragraphs without ekstra blank lines and change paragraph on those. Third step do an advanced / GREP search. Not what I wanted, but still might be good enough.
    – 2rB
    Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 11:38
  • Would just think that InDesign should have an optional setting to stop blank lines from displaying on top of columns / text boxes – as you can use style for so many other things.
    – 2rB
    Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 11:41
  • 1
    @JanusBahsJacquet thanks.. I added that to my answer. That's what I was thinking but I'm not confident enough with GREP searches to actually post "how" without some testing on my part first. :) -------- As for Space After/Before... I always default to space after. I would never use Space Before for body copy paragraphs. Using Space Before almost always ends up with something at some point needing to reset the style. I reserve Space Before for headers/subheaders fairly exclusively. But that's merely my workflow.
    – Scott
    Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 18:58
  • 1
    The reason to use GREP over regular search, incidentally, would be if your input text is not clean – sometimes people for no reason add spaces at the end of everything, including empty paragraphs. With GREP, you could search for \r\h*\r (meaning ‘paragraph mark followed by zero or more horizontal whitespace characters followed by paragraph mark’) to match all cases, even if there’s some whitespace in the blank paragraph. Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 7:33

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