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I've developed the habit of using \\[.5\baselineskip] to indicate that a part of a bigger argument ended in that line. I found this quite helpful to structure bigger arguments.

By now, I start questioning myself if that might be bad practice. In particular concerning the readability of documents.

If there is someone here with experience in professional typesetting with well reasoned arguments for, or against this practice, I would be glad to hear it.

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

It's probably bad practice, although hard to say with no context.

Firstly \\ does not end the paragraph. If your narrative reaches a point where a large visual break is needed then a paragraph break would seem more natural.

If all paragraph breaks need the same visual skip then there is nothing more to do, but if this is a special break then using

blah blah blah.

\newthought

Blah blah blah

Not only makes the source document more readable, and you can define \newthought in one place to affect all such constructs in the document, starting with

\newcommand\newthought{\par\vspace{.5\baselineskip}}
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1  
Might want to steal some code from memoirs fancybreak macro, then the paragraph after the break will not be indented. – daleif Jan 16 at 13:25
    
There's already \bigskip which bascially nudges things down by \bigskipamount (if I remember correctly)... – Seamus Jan 16 at 13:32
    
@Seamus Indeed. I was actually thinking of posting about that. – Alenanno Jan 16 at 13:37
1  
@Seamus sure but it's better to have a specific command even if you initially just define it to be \bigskip – David Carlisle Jan 16 at 14:01
1  
@DavidCarlisle if it is a new paragraph, then why the space? There is no need for it. If it is not indented, then the blank space above it should in dictate we are starting something new – daleif Jan 16 at 15:24

Honestly, your definition of .5\baselineskip is exactly the length of \medskip, which is equivalent to \vspace{\medskipamount}. If we show these values we get:

\verb!\baselineskip =! \the\baselineskip

\verb!     \medskip =! \the\medskipamount

enter image description here

So if we define a new length of that size, it'll look like \medskip. Of course, the major difference would be the stretchable lengths: the plus indicates how much it will be stretched, and the minus how much it will be shrinked, if required. See this egreg's answer for more info.

So here's a comparison between \newarg, a new command that is half a line, and \medskip:

enter image description here

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{lipsum}

\newlength\sms
\setlength\sms{.5\baselineskip} 

\newcommand\newarg{\par\vspace{\sms}}

\begin{document}
\lipsum[66]

\newarg

\lipsum[66]

\medskip

\lipsum[66]
\end{document} 
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