I would like to set \parindent to 2em (or \quad which is the same if I know correctly). How can I do it?

\setlength{\parindent}{...} only accepts values with length units, for example, 15pt, 1cm, etc. It doesn't accept \quad; it gives the error "Illegal unit of measure".


  • 1
    \parindent=2em\relax Note that \quad is not a length, but a macro for skipping a length, so one cannot set \parindent to it. Commented Mar 23, 2015 at 16:48
  • \quad is a skip of 1em, so \setlength{\parindent}{1em} should do the trick.
    – Thruston
    Commented Mar 23, 2015 at 16:49

1 Answer 1


\quad means \hskip 1em\relax. You have to give a length directly as the argument to \parindent. So use \setlength{\parindent}{2em}.

\usepackage{showframe}  %% just for demo

enter image description here

You can find the meaning of \quad by texdef \quad in terminal. And to find the value of \parindent, put \showthe\parindent in your file and the value will be show in the log.

  • 2
    \AtBeginDocument{\setlength{\parskip}{1em}} is better. Why? Well, exercise for you.
    – egreg
    Commented Mar 23, 2015 at 18:08
  • @egreg For me? :-) May be I am a lazy student who runs out of time quickly these days. :-)
    – user11232
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 0:24

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