Paragraphs, Indents, No-indents and Poetry

The section describes how you can do various things with paragraph styling, including:

  • How to set your whole document so that paragraphs skip lines instead of indent
  • How to force a non-indented paragraph
  • How to force an indented paragraph
  • How to make a soft return/line-break … without getting an indent or a line skip
  • A suggestion of how to format poetry

First: Some Background about Paragraphs and Pressbooks

You don’t normally see this, but when your book is exported (in the Web preview, to PDF, EPUB or MOBI), a new paragraph is wrapped in a special <p> tag that tells the output: this is a paragraph! Please style me! In most cases, for print and ebooks (as is traditional with most books you’ll find on your shelf), a new paragraph is denoted in the text by a new line and an indent. Sometimes that’s not the case though.

For instance, in a book you might see something like this.

Here is the first sentence in a paragraph. Here is a second sentence. And another, longer third sentence, which we will make long enough so that we are sure it will wrap around to the next line.

Here is then next line of the paragraph. You will notice that this paragraph is indented.

How do we make paragraphs behave properly in Pressbooks? When the paragraphs are exported they are wrapped like this, which tells the PDF or Ebook how they should be styled.

<p>Here is the first sentence in a paragraph. Here is a second sentence. And another, longer third sentence, which we will make long enough so that we are sure it will wrap around to the next line.</p>
<p>Here is the first line of the next paragraph. You will notice that this paragraph is indented.</p>

This is default behaviour (which can be changed, see below) for:
* PDF output in Pressbooks
* EPUB/MOBI output in Pressbooks

Paragraphs are ALWAYS displayed with a line space in web form and in the visual editor.

However … IMPORTANT!! … Paragraphs are NOT displayed like this in the Web preview AND in the Pressbooks editor. Instead, in the Pressbooks Editor, paragraph separation is denoted with a line between the paragraphs, so they will look like this:

Here is the first sentence in a paragraph. Here is a second sentence. And another, longer third sentence, which we will make long enough so that we are sure it will wrap around to the next line.

Here is a new paragraph in the WEB preview AND the Editor. You will notice that this paragraph is NOT indented.

The paragraph tag wrapping and formatting happens on export.

Here’s what you might see in the TEXT editor of Pressbooks:

Paragraphs in the Text Editor

<h2>Here is a heading</h2>

This is a first paragraph after a heading, which won't be indented on exports.

This is a second paragraph, which will be indented.

This is a single paragraph,
With a soft return for the second line. You can tell this is a "soft" return, because there is no line space.

By inserting two carriage returns, we've made this a new paragraph, which you know because there is a blank line above it. This is just another sentence in the same paragraph. On export, this paragraph will be wrapped in a <p> tag. All paragraphs will. And this paragraph will be indented in exports.

And all that will render on output as … :

Here is a heading

This is a first paragraph after a heading, which won’t be indented on exports.

This is a second paragraph, which will be indented.

This is a single paragraph,
With a soft return for the second line. You can tell this is a “soft” return, because there is no line space.

By inserting two carriage returns, we’ve made this a new paragraph, which you know because there is a blank line above it. This is just another sentence in the same paragraph. On export, this paragraph will be wrapped in a <p> tag. All paragraphs will. And this paragraph will be indented in exports.

How to set your whole document so that paragraphs skip lines instead of indent

Certain kinds of books look better without indented paragraphs, and instead have paragraphs denoted with a blank space between the end of one and beginning of next. To apply this styling to your whole book, follow the following steps:

Left Menu –> Appearance –> Theme Options
–> PDF Options –> Select: “Skip lines between paragraphs.”
–> Ebook Options –> Select: “Skip lines between paragraphs.”

How to force a non-indented paragraph

You may wish to set a particular paragraph or set of paragraphs with NO indent. You can do this in a couple of ways:

1. Using the TEXT Editor, make sure all the paragraphs you don’t want indented have the following tag:

<p class="no-indent">A first paragraph</p>

<p class="no-indent">A second paragraph.</p>

2. Using the Visual Editor:

a. Highlight/select the paragraphs you want to display with no indents / line space between them.

b. From the toolbar, select Formats –> No indent.

And you are done!

See the screengrab below:

Setting your paragrpahs to no-indent

Setting your paragrpahs to no-indent

Soft Returns/Line Breaks

One thing you might want is to add a soft return in a body header. This is what it looks like in the TEXT editor:

Soft return/line break in a body header

<h2>Sometimes you want a
linebreak or soft return in a body header. This is what it looks like</h2>

Other times you want a soft
return in a regular paragraph. You'll have to do these in the TEXT editor.

Whereas this is a full new paragraph, that’s long enough to see a wrapping line, on most screens anyway.

And this will give you something like:

Sometimes you want a
linebreak or soft return in a body header. This is what it looks like

Other times you want a soft
return in a regular paragraph. You’ll have to do these in the TEXT editor.

Whereas this is a full new paragraph, that’s long enough to see a wrapping line, on most screens anyway.

Poems!

For poetry, we suggest you do three things:
a) wrap the whole poem in a blockquote
b) wrap each stanza in <p class="no-indent">
c) and then each line in the stanza is just a soft return

Note that <p class="no-indent"> does TWO things:
1. removes the indent on the paragraph
2. adds a space above the paragraph to separate it from the previous text

So your poem would look like this in the TEXT editor:

<blockquote>
<p class="no-indent">A stranger has come
To share my room in the house not right in the head,
A girl mad as birds</p>
<p class="no-indent">Bolting the night of the door with her arm her plume.
Strait in the mazed bed
She deludes the heaven-proof house with entering clouds</p>
<p class="no-indent">Yet she deludes with walking the nightmarish room,
At large as the dead,
Or rides the imagined oceans of the male wards.</p>
<p class="no-indent nowrap">. . . . . . . .</p><p class="no-indent">And taken by light in her arms at long and dear last
I may without fail
Suffer the first vision that set fire to the stars.</p>
<cite>-Dylan Thomas</cite>
</blockquote>

Which will render something like this on export:

A stranger has come
To share my room in the house not right in the head,
A girl mad as birds

Bolting the night of the door with her arm her plume.
Strait in the mazed bed
She deludes the heaven-proof house with entering clouds

Yet she deludes with walking the nightmarish room,
At large as the dead,
Or rides the imagined oceans of the male wards.

. . . . . . . .

And taken by light in her arms at long and dear last
I may without fail
Suffer the first vision that set fire to the stars.

-Dylan Thomas