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Here is the thing, I have always used a blank space between paragraphs in order to tell latex that there is a new paragraph. But there is someone I work with very often that keeps using \\ to break a line after a paragraph...

This is really annoying so I wanted to know if there is a real advantage of using \\ over just leaving a space.

Note that I am not referring to the paragraph environment, but to the simple term paragraph.

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1 Answer 1

up vote 37 down vote accepted

there is absolutely no advantage to using \\ to end a paragraph, and in fact, a big disadvantage -- it doesn't actually end the paragraph; it only goes to a new line, and probably triggers an underfull line report in the log.

there are only two ways to end a paragraph in "basic" text mode: a blank line, or \par. there are some (but few, and mostly obscure) situations in which \par shouldn't be used. but it definitely puts something "visible" in the file, and if you are sending a file using a mailer that swallows or "disappears" blank lines, then \par is safer.

never try to end a paragraph with \\!

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Especially liked 'the dog (or email) ate my paragraphs'! – Brent.Longborough Aug 9 '12 at 19:20
It is not just a "huge disadvantage" it is plain wrong as it is not ending the paragraph (i.e., no indentation). It is often used by people who want to get an empty line after a paragraph, so they go \\ followed by an empty line -- there you end up with the underfull box so this is wrong as well. – Frank Mittelbach Aug 10 '12 at 10:00
@barbara beeton @Frank Mittelbach I don't understand why using \\ is considered wrong. I normally type paragraphs like this: \noindent Text text text text text text text. \\ \noindent Text text text text text text text. \\ And so on. In terms of style, I prefer to never indent the first lines of paragraphs, rather I refer only to leave a blank line (as above) to separate paragraphs. Anyway, if the above method works then why change? And besides, underfull hbox errors don't actually stop compilation, so I can ignore them. Pardon for my ignorance on this issue. – User 17670 Aug 31 '12 at 22:18
@User17670 it is wrong be cause you are using the visual result of one constrcut to produce the appearance of a different one. A paragraph logically ends with an empty line. How it is formatted is a question of style and if you prefee nonindented paras with some space between them, this could be adjusted simply by a declaration and wouldn't need \noindent in front of every para and \\ at its end. This way reusing your text is nearly impossible. Even just moving text around means adding and deleting such commands all over the place. – Frank Mittelbach Sep 1 '12 at 8:16
@User17670 And yes, you can ignore errors or warnings if they do not hurt the visual result, but this also means that you will miss the real earrors or warnings in the noise. Why LaTeX if you aren't interested in using logical markup as a starting point (and do the formatting largely separately through style declarations)? do you think \indent 1) bla bla \par \indent 2) ... is a good replacemented for \begin{enumerate} \item ...? Because that is somewhat similar. – Frank Mittelbach Sep 1 '12 at 8:20

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