in ancient manuscripts, another means to divide sentences into paragraphs was a line break (newline) followed by an initial at the beginning of the next paragraph. An initial is an oversized capital letter, sometimes outdented beyond the margin of the text. This style can be seen, for example, in the original Old English manuscript of Beowulf. Outdenting is still used in English typography, though not commonly.2 Modern English typography usually indicates a new paragraph by indenting the first line. This style can be seen in the (handwritten) United States Constitution from 1787. For additional ornamentation, a hedera leaf or other symbol can be added to the inter-paragraph whitespace, or put in the indentation space.In word processing and desktop publishing, a hard return or paragraph break indicates a new paragraph, to be distinguished from the soft return at the end of a line internal to a paragraph. This distinction allows word wrap to automatically re-flow text as it is edited, without losing paragraph breaks. The software may apply vertical whitespace or indenting at paragraph breaks, depending on the selected style.
How such documents are actually stored depends on the file format. For example, HTML uses the tag as a paragraph container. In plaintext files, there are two common formats. Pre-formatted text will have a newline at the end of every physical line, and two newlines at the end of a paragraph, creating a blank line. An alternative is to only put newlines at the end of each paragraph, and leave word wrapping up to the application that displays or processes the text.
A line break that is inserted manually, and preserved when re-flowing, may still be distinct from a paragraph break, although this is typically not done in prose. HTML’s tag produces a line break without ending the paragraph; the W3C recommends using it only to separate lines of verse (where each paragraph” is a stanza), or in a street address.5