Get Rid of First-Line Indents in Paragraphs Without Enumeration?

I’ve been reading Matthew Butterick’s Typography for Lawyers. It has caused me to revisit some issues.

Here’s one: In samples in MSCD, the introductory clause, the recitals, the lead-in, the concluding clause, and autonomous definitions all use first-line indenting. I also use space between those paragraphs. Here’s what Typography for Lawyers has to say:

A first-line indent is the most common way to signal the start of a new paragraph. The other common way is with space between paragraphs.

First-line indents and space between paragraphs have the same relationship as belts and suspenders. You only need one to get the job done. Using both is a mistake. If you use a first-line indent on a paragraph don’t use space between. And vice versa.

That suggests that I should get rid of those first-line indents. But an argument for keeping them is that all other paragraphs, namely those with enumeration, need first-line indenting—they’d look very odd without it. so I’m inclined to keep first-line indenting for unenumerated paragraphs, just for the sake of consistency.

What say you?


About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.