The conventional way of typesetting running text has no separation between paragraphs, and the first line of each paragraph in a block of text indented.
In contrast, one common convention for typewritten text was to have no indentation of paragraphs; such a style is often required for “brutalist” publications such as technical manuals, and in styles that hanker after typewritten manuscripts, such as officially-specified dissertation formats.
Anyone can see, after no more than a moment’s thought, that if the paragraph indent is zero, the paragraphs must be separated by blank space: otherwise it is sometimes going to be impossible to see the breaks between paragraphs.
The simple-minded approach to zero paragraph indentation is thus:
and in the very simplest text, it’s a fine solution.
However, the non-zero
\parskip interferes with lists and the like,
and the result looks pretty awful. The
patches things up to look reasonable; it’s not perfect, but it deals
with most problems.
FAQ ID: Q-parskip