[texhax] In defence of Edsko

Philip TAYLOR Philip-and-LeKhanh at Royal-Tunbridge-Wells.Org
Sat Nov 24 21:36:10 CET 2007

Edsko de Vries wrote:
> Hi,
> Is there a way to avoid the parindent at the start of a new page? At the
> moment, I do this manually by inserting a \noindent before each
> paragraph that starts a new page, but obviously this is extremely
> fragile---I'd much prefer an automatic solution. 

There have been a number of replies to this /crie de coeur/,
and although Morten Hoegholm <morten.hoegholm at gmail.com>
came up with a viable (and illuminating) solution, by
far the majority of responses have been along the
lines of "just don't do it".  I would like to play devil's
advocate and defend Edsko's position.

Much of the criticism has asked "how is the reader to know
if he (or she) has just encountered a new paragraph when
encountering an indented leading-cap line at the top of
a new page ?".  But does this matter ?  Do we lose a great
deal if we fail to identify each and every paragraph visually ?
Should not the /content/ make it plain what is, and what
is not, a paragraph ?  Remember that a paragraph should
focus on a single idea : according to Wikipaedia (which
I rarely cite, but it seems pretty accurate in this case),
a paragraph "is a self-contained unit of discourse in
writing, dealing with a particular point or idea".  Should
it not therefore be plain to the reader that if the unindented
leading-cap sentence introduces a new idea, which is then
followed through until the paragraph ends, then it is almost
certainly the case that the sentence did indeed introduce
a new paragraph.  And if the reader is wrong, and mis-identifies
it as a continuation of the preceding para., will he or she
be so misled as to significantly reduce the effectiveness
of the prose ?  I argue not.

So let us be a little more open in our approach to
experimental typesetting : if Edsko wants unindented
paragraphs at the top of a new page, then let him
have them.  Advise him, if you will, that he is
ignoring convention; but please don't tell him he
is wrong : he is not, he is just "different".

Philip Taylor

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