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I've downloaded a LaTeX dissertation template from my university that comes with its own custom .cls file. One of the first things I noticed is the paragraph indentation. Every single paragraph is indented, even those at the beginning of a section. I'm no typographer, but my understanding is that it's conventional to not indent the first paragraph after a centered heading, but to indent the first paragraph after a left-aligned heading and any subsequent paragraph.

I've gone through the custom .cls file and tried modifying the @afterindenttrue and @afterindentfalse declarations, but I was unable to get things to work consistently. In some cases, first paragraphs following centered section headings were still indented, and some paragraphs following left-aligned subsection headings were not indented.

How do I need to modify the .cls file to get consistent indentation? The thesis template is available from this stable link, and the .cls file is Assets/isuthesis.cls.

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  • There is no one convention. It depends where you are. In the US, the convention is as you describe. In the UK, the convention is to indent all paragraphs, even the first paragraph in a document and the first following a centred heading. Of course, plenty of people use a different convention, but insofar as there is a standard, that's how it is. If your university provides this template, they may require the formatting it implements. So before trying to change its behaviour, make sure that you are permitted to customise things as you wish. – cfr Feb 27 '15 at 15:07
  • Hence, we have indentfirst which implements the non-default convention for standard LaTeX classes. – cfr Feb 27 '15 at 15:08
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The class copies in full the content of the indentfirst package

\makeatletter
\let\@afterindentfalse\@afterindenttrue
\@afterindenttrue

why on earth it has \makeatletter in a class file I don't know.

But that means that changing \@afterindenttrue to \@afterindentfalse will have no effect as they have the same meaning. You want to just remove the quoted lines.

Unrelated but

\renewcommand{\contentsname}
{\protect \centering \large TABLE OF CONTENTS } %JAS

Is so wrong, the whole point of the \...name convention is that those commands just have text without formatting, to allow for easy natural language translation.

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  • That fixes some of the problems, but I still can't get \specialchapt to work not indent and \subsection to indent. It's a very messy business and I might just be better off leaving things as they are... – Daniel Standage Feb 27 '15 at 16:01
  • @DanielStandage why do you want \subsection to indent? \specialchapt doesn't use any of the latex heading machinery it just does {\centering\large\bfseries #2\par} so it has no control over the indentation nor prevents page breaks after the heading nor anything else a heading normally does. (It gets away with no page break control after the heading as it always starts a new page, but still...) – David Carlisle Feb 27 '15 at 16:50
  • The \subsection headings are left-aligned, so the paragraph following should be indented. The \specialchapt headings are centered, so the first paragraph should not be indented. – Daniel Standage Feb 27 '15 at 19:55
  • @DanielStandage Oh OK that's not the norm (usual style is to indent them all or not indent them all) but you could certainly have that if that's what you want. – David Carlisle Feb 27 '15 at 20:33

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