Paragraph breaks in magazines

Moniker42's picture

Just trying to settle something here – I can't find any magazines that routinely put space between paragraphs for continuous text. Indentation, sure, but not a vertical break.

Anyone know of any, or is it really that hard and fast a rule?

Joshua Langman's picture

It's pretty unusual in continuous text, if for no other reason (and there are others) than that it takes up more vertical space.

JamesM's picture

I think indentation is more common, both to save space and also because it can make baseline alignments between columns easier. But there are examples of magazines using space between paragraphs; Communication Arts magazine, for example.

Moniker42's picture

I can see why it's so rarely used - if a break falls at the end of a column the break could be invisible. Thanks for the tip about Computer Arts magazine. Partly I'm determined to find at least one publication that does it, as it seems strange that absolutely no one does it.

Joshua Langman's picture

It's Communication Arts, not Computer Arts. But the point about a paragraph break at the bottom of a column makes a lot of sense.

JamesM's picture

Yeah, it's Communication Arts, a graphic design magazine (www.commarts.com). Here's a sample:

Another one that uses space between paragraphs is GD (Graphic Design) USA magazine (www.gdusa.com).

Of course neither of these are mainstream magazines.

Joshua Langman's picture

Do spaced paragraphs generally feel more in-tune with sans serifs, and indented paragraphs with serifs? Or is it just me? I feel like that layout wouldn't work as well if it wasn't in a sans.

hrant's picture

Paragraph indents are legacy junk.

hhp

Moniker42's picture

Sorry, Communication Arts not Computer Arts. Getting it mixed up with a UK magazine called the latter. Thanks!

Michel Boyer's picture

VIA Rail Canada Destinations Magazine (with downloadable pdf) leaves a full blank line between paragraphs; lines stay aligned in a multicolumn setup.

Joshua Langman's picture

What do you suggest instead, Hrant?

hrant's picture

Even the pilcrow isn't as bad.

hhp

Maxim Zhukov's picture

Sometimes (not often) both paragraph indentations and paragraph spaces are used.

charles ellertson's picture

@hrant

Even the pilcrow isn't as bad.

Except almost no one does that these days. Writing is about communication -- unless you just hang it on the wall & look at it.

Although, there are a few characters in the Latin alphabet I'd just as soon not have to deal with, maybe we can skip them, too? But what if they're different than the one's you want to skip, now where are we?

hrant's picture

Lacking a king/queen, and noting that Democracy -being a henchman of Capitalism- cannot work to improve culture we cannot expect a formal organization to affect improvement. So it's up to individuals. If I use pilcrows* and promulgate that enough that others follow, then it's a go. How do you think "bouma" is a real word now? :-)

* http://themicrofoundry.com/

Really, just because something has fallen out of fashion doesn't make it bad. In fact the paragraph indent comes from people not wanting to pay extra for gilded initial letters. Ergo: legacy junk.

hhp

charles ellertson's picture

Really, just because something has fallen out of fashion doesn't make it bad. In fact the paragraph indent comes from people not wanting to pay extra for gilded initial letters. Ergo: legacy junk.

Um, no. Paragraph indents - sans pilcrow - go back to the 16th century, in lots of books, from lots of different countries, & printers. Even Royal printers (Updike, Printing Types).

Don't believe anyone thought there should be a hand-drawn initial in every paragraph, gilded or otherwise. Or even a drop cap using type.

Of course, when you write your own books, you can do as you choose -- if you can talk the publisher into it.

hrant's picture

From what I know space was left by the scribes for somebody else to later add a large decorated initial. But to sell cheaper copies some books never got the initial (although the missing letter was somehow added of course, often by simply printing it, sometimes at a tiny text size right in the middle of the gaping hole). Eventually that emptiness became acceptable style. Legacy junk.

Certainly not every paragraph was intended to get a large initial, but I'm pretty sure indenting was not acceptable style before "missing-initial-syndrome" kicked in.

The great thing about the pilcrow is that you can start a new idea (the main -maybe only- point of a paragraph break) without wasting space or causing ungainly gaps.

hhp

PublishingMojo's picture

The paragraph indent is a legacy from the days when ideas were plentiful and paper was scarce, so publishers used every space-saving technique available (including justified right margins).

Paper is ceasing to be a limiting factor on the publication of ideas, and ragged-right columns and extra space between paragraphs are becoming more common. But that didn't come about because of supply and demand.

Until the 1980s, the only way to get copy ready for publication (i.e., presented in typographic letterforms), was to pay a professional with years of training to enter the copy into a big, expensive typesetting machine. Part of the training those professionals got was the publishing standard of justified columns and indented paragraphs with no extra space between them.

Starting in the 1980s, any fool with a desktop computer could put his (or her) copy into typographic letterforms, and thus render it ready for publication, sort of. First-generation word-processor users had never been trained as professional typesetters, but they had learned to type business letters on a typewriter, i.e., they had learned "block style": ragged right with an extra space between paragraphs. Word processing evolved into desktop publishing, bringing with it the default practices of the office typing pool, rather than the standards of professional typesetters. A vestige of this evolutionary path is that many people who've never seen a typewriter have a tendency to put two word spaces after the period at the end of a sentence.

charles ellertson's picture

Hrant, to reiterate, the indent space with EVERY paragraph was not to have a letter painted in. Read my post again.

If that's not enough -- and it probably shouldn't be -- go look at specimens we have, 1560 through, oh, say yesterday. Lots of books. If you want a quick source, Updike covers a long time period and a lot of nationalities.

@Victor.

Well, the 1980s is perhaps an unfortunate choice for the date. The IBM strike-on composer had been in use for a while, and you *could* use a personal computer like the Xerox Star to drive a Linotron 202 (we did) by the mid-1980s, but PostScript was a child of the 1990s, and it wasn't really until the mid-1990s that "desktop" publishing" was a viable option.

Moreover, "self publishing" was still just another name for "vanity publishing." But I take your point.

Typesetters like me didn't become irrelevant until later. Actually, we're still not irrelevant if a publisher doesn't just rent their imprint, but uses it as a mark of professional work, of standards in selecting what to publish, editing, and manufacturing.

Sadly, you're probably right for the future -- publishing is becoming just another land populated by mid-level-managers, who tell you they provide "content" when caught & questioned between their meetings.

None of our rantings changes the simple fact that the purpose of writing is to communicate, and (1) that requires an audience, and (2) it is rarely the designer's job to challenge that audience.

As I once told a designer who thought otherwise, you want to challenge the audience, write your own damn book. He didn't. And author's didn't like his work, I wonder why? So he took the only avenue left, teaching.

JamesM's picture

One of the unfortunate side effects of modern technology is that graphic designers do a variety of jobs themselves that used to be done by specialists who were probably better at it. I used to have professional typesetters set my type; now I do it myself. Photos used to be scanned and retouched by specialists; now I drop in a digital file and tweak it in Photoshop. Many designers do their own prepress work (trapping, etc), rather than letting the printer's prepress professionals do it. And so forth.

(Not that I'd want to go back to the days of waiting overnight to get type galleys and then pasting them up with rubber cement; I'm glad those days are gone.)

hrant's picture

the indent space with EVERY paragraph was not to have a letter painted in.

Yes, but my contention is that only started happening after money-saving made the indent acceptable. That's why I see it as legacy junk.

I could be wrong of course, and if you show me an example of a manuscript with a large decorated initial and intentional paragraph indents I will correct my view, and thank you for teaching me something.

it is rarely the designer's job to challenge that audience.

This I don't buy. In any job you can be a total peon, a total flaming artiste, or anything in between - and you can't expect everybody to choose the spot on that axis that you happen to prefer. If I'm not challenging people I'm not happy. And the people who like my fonts like them at least partly for that reason. Same goes for designing a page layout: you shouldn't blindly go for paragraph indents merely because your pappy done did it like dat. That's putting culture in a sealed bottle.

you want to challenge the audience, write your own damn book.

You're not going to convince designers they can only communicate via text. Not because they're vain (although many of them are) but because that doesn't make human sense.

hhp

charles ellertson's picture

It's a plus and minus, James. I have to do more design work these days, too -- hard to find a good traditional designer... ;-)

The technology helps, thought, if you're willing to take the time. In type, true-cut superiors, small caps, etc., we can all now make the things for which we use to be at the mercy of the foundries. Spacing work can be done, even weight tweaking. Much of this can be done, or closely approximated, in an applications program like InDesign.

The biggest plus is black & white halftone work. You can now get an ICC graysale profile (well, sometimes you have to figure it out) for a particular printer and a particular paper. Often the printer doesn't know, but even here, there are standards. You lose some shadow detail if you can't get the "exact" profile. Truth to tell, they can only hold +/- three to five percent on press, which makes things a bit of a crap shoot.

You can then set up an inkjet in the office to essentially make b&w proofs that will be very close to what you'll get on press, and adjust your work accordingly. The same for color, of course, but it is harder, more work. For color, we set up to match the printers' laser proofer, and assume they can match their own proofer. If they can't, we all know where the blame lies...

The biggest problem is all the ham-handed tinkerers who go into the image in Photoshop & posterize things with their so-called adjustments, or clip the black/white points. Do your adjustments in layers, so the original image is unmodified. Flatten at the end, & write that off as a separate file. Save the original, working image file as a .pfd (NOT .pdf). If you have to send the image to a professional downstream, or adjust the image in proof, you'll be glad to have that .pfd with the original image & layers.

JamesM's picture

> Do your adjustments in layers, so the
> original image is unmodified.

Absolutely right; never make changes to the original image that you can't revise or undo later. And I always archive my layered Photoshop files.

> as a .pfd (NOT .pdf)

What is a .pfd? Or did you mean .psd?

charles ellertson's picture

Yes, of course. Time for another flu pill...

Maxim Zhukov's picture

A vestige of this evolutionary path is that many people who’ve never seen a typewriter have a tendency to put two word spaces after the period at the end of a sentence.

Not quite. Sentence spacing used to be standard practice in typographic composition long before—and after—the invention of the typewriter, let alone the advent of computerised word processing.

Source [➹]: Theodore Low De Vinne. The Practice of Typography: Correct Composition. New York: The Century Cº, 1901.

Maxim Zhukov's picture

The paragraph indent is a legacy from the days when ideas were plentiful and paper was scarce, so publishers used every space-saving technique available (including justified right margins).

The capacity of justified setting is about the same as of unjustified (flush-left/ragged-right). There is no space gain in it:

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