carriage returns

Only when you want a new paragraph

On man­ual type­writ­ers, the car­riage was the part on top that held the paper and scooted left­ward as you typed. At the end of each line, you’d push a lever to move the car­riage to the begin­ning of the next line. On elec­tric type­writ­ers, this lever became the car­riage return key, which you’d press at the end of each line.

The ter­mi­nol­ogy has stayed with us, but on a word proces­sor, you only use a car­riage return to start a new para­graph.

As with the word space, use only one car­riage return at a time. It’s com­mon to see mul­ti­ple car­riage returns used to add ver­ti­cal space between para­graphs. Bad idea. If you want ver­ti­cal space after a para­graph, use space between paragraphs.

But it’s so much eas­ier to type two car­riage returns.” I know. But in long, struc­tured doc­u­ments, extra car­riage returns cre­ate unpre­dictable con­se­quences as the doc­u­ment is edited. What­ever time you save with the short­cut will cost you later.