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Here is the code I am using to place a heading with a line above and below the text, from this post.

    \hrule height 1pt
    \kern 5pt
    \hbox to \textwidth{\textbf{\mediumletterspace{#1}}\hfil}
    \kern 5pt
    \hrule height 0.2pt

However, with the \par at the beginning, there is \parskip vertical space followed by a \bigskip vertical space. I want to make this skip the same, regardless of the length of \parskip. How do I accomplish this? Also, if I get rid of the \par, there is no vertical skip at all and not even a line break. Why?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

you can use \addvspace\bigskipamount (or with braces around \bigskipamount if this is just a single token; it doesn't make any difference). it's always prudent to insert \par.

the reason there is no vertical space -- or even a line break -- if you don't include \par is that the \vspace doesn't take effect until there is actually a transition to vertical mode, which will actually happen at the next "normal" line break. this is sometimes used as a method for spacing down a bit before the next line when you're not sure exactly where the line will end. similarly, placing \newpage in the middle of a text line will start a new page as soon as the current line ends normally.

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