I understand that I should not use white space in between paragraphs and indent on the left to separate the same paragraph. But is it alright to go in novel writing from one to another? For instance, to use the white space between paragraphs to show passage of time and left indent for everything else?

  • I certainly prefer both, when I'm reading someone else's work. (As an amateur author I end up reading a lot of the works of others of a similar status, and the combo of spacing + about a 4 char indent is far easier to parse as you're scanning a page of choppy paragraphs.)
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 11, 2018 at 13:27

1 Answer 1


Are you self-publishing or submitting your novel to literary agencies?

If you're submitting to agencies, it's a tricky one because you will get a different answer to this depending on which novel formatting website you visit. Some say indent every paragraph except the first, others say indent every paragraph.

When submitting to agencies, I was told to never use a book as a formatting guide for a submission, the two formats have nothing in common. The publisher lays out the book format, not you.

So, when submitting, I indented every line, including the first, and used white space to show passages of time. My submission (I'm UK based) was very well received with this formatting and my agents haven't asked me to change this before we submit to the publishers.

If you are submitting, the important thing to keep in mind when stressing about the formatting of your manuscript is that agents and in-house editors are human. As long as you have followed their submission guidelines to the letter, and your MS is in a clear, easy-to-read format, e.g. TNR font, 12 point, double spaced, they won't reject you if you don't indent the first line.

But, personally, I would indent every line.


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