Is there any difference between \paragraph{} and \paragraph*{}?

When it's used (if nothing has been modified before, i.e. like in this post: Paragraph header), there's no difference in the created PDF file.

Normally, the * is used to prevent LaTeX to count/number the related object (paragraph here). But here, there's no count/numbering at all for both of them, thus... What's the change, if there is any at all?

  • 11
    Try to set \setcounter{secnumdepth}{5} and then you can see the difference.
    – Guido
    Nov 6, 2012 at 20:46
  • Indeed, there counted. Still. You had to "modify" something to have it (and it's not pretty to look, unless it's use has "subsubsub" section). Thanks for the tip.
    – Julien
    Nov 7, 2012 at 0:46

1 Answer 1


Like with all sectioning commands from \section and lower (in the standard document classes), they are defined in terms of \@startsection, which allows for a starred variant. Taken from latex.ltx (with emphasis/comments added):

  \if@noskipsec \leavevmode \fi
  \@tempskipa #4\relax
  \ifdim \@tempskipa <\z@
    \@tempskipa -\@tempskipa \@afterindentfalse
  \@ifstar%  <------------------------------------------ Condition on *
    {\@ssect{#3}{#4}{#5}{#6}}%  <----------------------- starred-version
    {\@dblarg{\@sect{#1}{#2}{#3}{#4}{#5}{#6}}}}%  <----- regular/non-starred version

The difference only becomes noticeable when looking at the inner workings of \@ssect and \@sect - the choices after conditioning on * - the former associated with the starred-version. The main differences include:

  • Numbering, based on the value of the counter secnumdepth. For \paragraph, this is 4. Setting secnumdepth to anything higher than or equal to 4 would reveal the difference;

  • Inclusion in the ToC. Regardless of the value of tocdepth - the counter deciding which sectional units to include in the ToC, the entry is written to the .toc file. Only upon reading the .toc file is it decided to include the entry or not, based on the value of tocdepth.

  • The running heads is triggered by \paragraphmark (when calling \paragraph{..}), initially set to \@gobble. So, without any modifications, this just gobbles its argument - the "paragraph title" and changes nothing in the heading. However, a suitable definition of \paragraphmark would show a different effect when using \paragraph as opposed to \paragraph* where no \paragraphmark is called.

  • Thanks. Is there a way to "reveal" the ToC inclusion ? And what about the Running headers ?
    – Julien
    Nov 7, 2012 at 0:52
  • 2
    the toc includes section levels down to the tocdepth counter so as for numbering you just have to set tocdepth to 4 or above. The running heads from this level would be set by \paragraphmark, but by default this is \@gobble so it doesn't affect the heading. Nov 7, 2012 at 1:58

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