Paragraph Spacing Before vs. After

Hello, Can someone tell me the case scenarios (or best practices) for using “paragraph spacing before and after”. I am setting up my project’s editor and I want to make sure that I do it properly so I don’t have to go back and fix it.

Thank you - in advance - for your help!


I am not a professional typesetter, mind you, but here is what I believe:

I think, as a general rule, space-after does almost all the work.

Forget Scrivener for a second and let’s just think about typeset text in a book.

  1. Suppose you are looking at a book whose body text paragraphs have no first line indent, but whose paragraphs are instead marked by a line’s worth of spacing between paragraphs. Where is that spacing coming from? Those paragraphs are set with some space-after.

  2. But now suppose we are looking at a book whose regular paragraphs have no space between and are distinguished only by first-line indent. However, when we come to an extended quotation in the book, the quoted text is set off in a block which has inset margins left and right and, notice, is not set flush up against the paragraphs before and after it, but is given some linespace above and below. This now is something to be achieved using both space-before and space-after (though this means one must treat paragraph breaks within the quotation itself in a special way). Something similar could be said about certain headings/sub-headings in text — some of which will have extra spacing before in order to make a visual break from the previous section. That is another case where space-before has a role to play.

To anthropomorphize: Think of the text rolling out in time from beginning to end. The last paragraph before an extended quotation block doesn’t know it is the last paragraph, and the last paragraph before a sub-heading doesn’t know it is the last paragraph. But the heading knows it us an intervention and needs space, and likewise the block quote — so it is natural that these elements should take responsibility for ensuring they have that bit of extra space before that they require.

Now, back to Scrivener. Of course, in Scrivener there is a distinction to be drawn between how your text looks in the editor while working and how it looks when you compile it to output. You need not try to typeset while you write. Compiling is used to determine a finished look for your text.


Thank you gr. You explained that very well and it makes sense to me how and why each may be utilized and how it doesn’t really matter while editing and before compiling.

I was reading online about how some people used enter twice for paragraph spacing and how that created big gaps while compiling and off I went.

To be honest - I like hitting enter twice as it offers more and quick control but I don’t want that issue later on :wink:

It is a happy habit, I know, but set your default paragraph to put that space-after in for you and you will find it so convenient you will never look back.

I myself like my default (no style) paragraph set to 12pt space-after and no first line indent in the editor when I write, but my typical compile sets my body text to first-line indent and no space-after. Best of both worlds.


p.s. I suppose you could set things up so that your double returns would actually get automatically removed in the compile process, but there is something crazy about putting them in just to have them removed. Much better to break the habit!

It’s [re: changing before/after spacing… not double line breaks] really not that hard to correct if you change your mind. Just set up the preferences/project settings formatting again, select your existing documents in the binder, and use the menu Documents->Convert->Text to Default Formatting.

There are pros and cons. The lines between paragraphs (double line breaks) can easily be handled by the Compiler and make Copy & Paste (from/to other editors) less annoying.

Thanks for all your help. It is really appreciated.

So now I know that I have choices BUT I decided to go with space after to see if I can make that work.

I still have Google Docs (for my real job) where I can go crazy on the enter key :wink: