The Project Gutenberg FAQ - V-89

V.89. Are there any places where I should indent text?

Yes. You should always make poetry look like the original, and that may mean indenting some lines, for example:

  I was a child and she was a child,
      In a kingdom by the sea;
  But we loved with a love that was more than love--
      I and my Annabel Lee;

Even when poetry doesn't have indented lines, it is a good idea to indent quotations embedded in prose. Remember, others will be converting your text later--to HTML, to PDA reader formats, to formats that don't even exist yet--and much of this conversion will be done automatically, by computer programs. It is very hard for a program to know when it can and can't re-wrap lines to fit a screen size unless it has a clear signal that this line should not be wrapped. This is one of the biggest problems with auto-converting PG texts.

Just about all formatting programs "know" that lines that are indented shouldn't be wrapped, so by indenting lines just a space or two, you can prevent

  I think that I shall never see
  A poem lovely as a tree.

from turning into

I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree.

in some future reader's eBook.

You don't really need to do this in texts where the whole book is poetry or blank verse, since these will probably be recognized as whole books that shouldn't be rewrapped, but when there are a few lines of quotation amid an acre of straight prose, a few spaces will be a life-saver. Even in the original plain text version, the extra spaces serve to set the quotation off from the main text.

You shouldn't get carried away and indent things 20 spaces for this reason, though. Anything up to four spaces is reasonable; more is excessive. If you're indenting many short verses in this way, keep your number of spaces for indentation consistent throughout the book.

There are some other times when you may judge it best to indent, where text is indented in the paper book, like newspaper headlines or pictures of handwritten notes.