Archive for March, 2012

On \parskip

I must copy this answer from tex.se. It is really useful. I often change \parskip and always find the lists look awful.

The main reason why “playing with \parskip is a bad idea” is that this length also affects list environments. Quoting from Mittelbach (1989), With LateX into the Nineties, section 3.1 “Implementation desasters”:

The generic list environment is one of the central modules of the LaTeX implementation. It is used internally by most standard environments provided by LaTeX; even environments such as center are handled as a special kind of list […]

  • An actual conceptual bug was the decision to add the value of \parskip to all vertical spacing parameters, even when it is used in places where no paragraph ends. This means that changing this parameter influences the layout in unexpected places, which in turn means that other parameters must be adjusted unnecessarily to compensate for this undesired side effect.

The last sentence describes what the parskip package, the options of the same name of theKOMA-script classes and the \abnormalparskip macro of the memoir class do: Besides setting \parskip to a positive value (and, with the exception of memoir, setting \parindentto zero), they adjust the spacing before and after lists.

Why does KOMA-scripthave so many options for parskip? You may choose between a vertical space equal to \baselineskip (full) or 0.5\baselineskip (half). You may also choose the minimum amount of whitespace to be left at the end of the last line of a paragraph (up to0.33\linewidth); such whitespace increases the perceptibility of the start of a new paragraph.

Regarding \parindent: As Ulrike has explained, changing this length is not a problem.

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