Large amounts of copy are way more readable for me when the paragraphs are divided by hanging indents (instead of standard first-line indentation). I'm not really sure why, but it's way easier on my eyes.

Here are some examples that don't have a 0pt indent after the end of a paragraph:

hanging vs standard (EDIT: used a better example)

enter image description here

I wouldn't be too concerned about it if I was spacing out the paragraphs like this, but I usually don't. Now I'm just an amateur. The first example is more readable and appealing to me, but I have no real-life clue about how people generally perceive the readability of hanging indents.

Are there any professional designers/typographers/editors who could give me some idea about how people feel about this? Is it more readable for others too? Do publishers prefer first-line indentation because of the amount of space it saves on the page? Are there standards for when and where this type of paragraph formatting is used?

Thanks a lot in advance for the insight.

  • 4
    yikes. that first example with the hanging indents is awful. I feel like I'm falling off the page each time I come back to the beginning of a line. I much prefer the second. Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 22:12
  • @LaurenIpsum Does it have anything to do with the width of the indent or the spacing between the paragraphs?
    – Nick
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 22:19
  • 2
    There are no standards in terms of rules. Just conventions. The right is, of course, the convention. You don't see the left often but if it works for you, there's no reason you can't. The reason it's not historically common is likely because that would have been a pain to set with moveable type.
    – DA01
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 0:27
  • 1
    The width of the indent in your previous example was worse than the new one, but I think it's just what we're accustomed to seeing. Our eyes return to the left margin and then we have to keep skipping over that blank space to find the text again. Or the first line is waaaaaay over to the left. It's weird and disconcerting, and it makes the first word in each paragraph almost distracting as your eyes move quickly down the page. Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 10:41
  • 1
    Maybe you find it easier because you are programmer :) and yes, the left one is easier for me too, I find it easier to skip paragraphs just like I would when skipping blocks of code. Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 4:47

2 Answers 2


I've designed an art book before with hanging indents but I had huge margins which made it look a lot better. I think both can work but having hanging indents would indeed cost more in terms of paper because they would require more space to look good. There are many other factors that will play on legibility.

I would only design with hanging indents if I had the text beforehand and that I knew it would be a one time thing. You might get some surprised depending on what kind of content you will need to accomodate (beginning with small words, numbers, etc.) Standard indents have proven successful and are safer IMO, people are used to reading them. But if hanging makes sense conceptually or gives a bit more "oomph" that adds to your design, I'd say go for it, you might catch someone's attention!


sorry, cannot comment yet, am still a new member today, so here my humble answer:

You are asking about peoples feelings. And about space (cost). I would personally have much better readability, if you would use the space you "lost" leftside through your hanging indents and turned them into whitespace between your paragraphs.

I.e. try another new-line (thereby creating a blank line) with neither indent nor hanging-indent and see (or let us see here) what that does for readability.

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