What Exactly Is a Paragraph, Anyway?

With apologies to Mrs. Hewitt, my eighth-grade English teacher, a paragraph is everything between two different paragraph marks. Shown in Figure 6-1, the shaded block near the bottom is a complete paragraph. Note, however, that so is the solitary paragraph marker that follows the shaded paragraph. Moreover, the bordered block of italicized text above the shaded block is also a single paragraph, despite the fact that there is white space between the upper and lower portions.

Figure 6-1. A paragraph is everything between two paragraph marks. A paragraph mark without any text is called an empty paragraph.

Note that many new Word users often are distracted by the display of nonprinting characters (such as paragraph marks, manual line breaks, spaces, and tabs). As shown here, however, displaying them can give you essential clues about what’s going on in a document.

Sometimes it’s useful to break a paragraph horizontally, while still keeping it as a solitary paragraph. That way, any paragraph formatting you do to any part of the paragraph is done to the entire paragraph, despite its disjoint appearance. If the paragraphs are numbered or bulleted, it also prevents a new number or bullet from being assigned to what logically is a continuation, not a new item.

If you’re in the habit of working with nonprinting characters turned ...

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