Writing 101: Block vs. Indents Isn't Even a Debate

As some of you know, I read a lot of author forums. Lately I'm seeing a topic that greatly disturbs me at the deepest levels. The debate between block paragraph versus indented paragraphs continues to be an issue among indies, and this is distressing. Because this isn't even an issue, or a debate. There's one way to format a book...my way.

Visual Appeal

Have you ever picked up a fiction novel and found block paragraphs waiting for you inside, with blank lines between each one? If the answer is yes, was this book self-published or otherwise released by an indie? Because this answer is yes as well, and I know it to be true.

Paragraph indents are an industry standard across the board when it comes to fiction stories. This means that the first line of every paragraph is indented, usually five spaces, to leave a small gap between the line and the left-side page margin. There is no extra space between paragraphs in this format. 

Block indenting has become popular thanks to the Internet. Even I use it for my blog, because when you read online it's easier to read text in big chunks. But when you read a book, you want those words to flow. You want to read the story as a cohesive whole, not take it in one small piece at a time. Proper formatting is essential if you want your book to look and read professionally. It's necessary if you want your words to flow.

So I'm officially declaring that the debate is over. When it comes to other types of books, I'm willing to keep an open mind. But when it comes to fiction stories, you need to use indents.

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  1. On the whole I agree with you. It works well on a screen, but definitely not in a book. However, I know of one author who has used block paragraphs, going way back to before the internet, Fay Weldon - although I do remember disliking it.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Annalisa!