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Indent the First Line of Text

Indenting the first line in a paragraph has become almost entirely obsolete in modern typography. In most cases, you should replace indenting the first line with using a blank line between paragraphs. However, there are situations in which you may still wish to indent the first line, for example, in fictional writing.

Use the text-indent property indent the first line in a paragraph. The example below shows how to use inline style to indent the first line of a paragraph by 20 pixels.

<p style="text-indent:20px;">Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, "and what is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations?"</p>

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, "and what is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations?"

Note: Use inline style when you want to apply style to only a single element. If you want to apply style to more than one element, use an embedded style block or a linked style sheet.

You may use any of the other CSS units of measurement with the text-indent property. px (pixels) is an absolute unit of measurement. You may also use relative units of measurement. The example below shows how to indent the first line of a paragraph by 20 percent of the paragraphs width.

<p style="text-indent:20%;">Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, "and what is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations?"</p>

When text-indent is used with %, it "defines an indentation in % of the width of the parent element". If you use the text-indent property with % in Internet Explorer, be sure the parent element has an explicit width property applied. I recommend avoiding use of the text-indent property with %.

If you wish to indent the entire paragraph, not just first line, use the margin-left property. The example below shows how to use the margin- left property to indent the entire paragraph by 20 pixels.

<p style="margin-left:20px;">Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, "and what is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations?"</p>

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, "and what is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations?"

Note: An alternative way to indent an entire paragraph is to use the html <blockquote> element. The <blockquote> element has inherent left and right margins. If your goal is to indent all the text on a page, you might consider setting it in the <body> tag using the html leftmargin attribute, as shown below.

<body leftmargin=20>

<p>Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, "and what is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations?"</p>

Many webmaters consider the use of html attributes to be outdated, as apposed to using style properties, and in fact many html attributes may be "depricated" in future versions of html. On the other hand, old browsers don't understand, or are inconsistent in the use of style properties.

More CSS Quick Reference:
• How to Define and Apply a Style Class
• Style the First Letter
• Descendant Selector
• CSS Units of Measurement
• Set the border-collapse
• Set the Border Style
• Set the Font Slant
• Set the Font Properties
• Set the Text Case
• How to Use a CSS ID Selector

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