How does "after" spacing interact with "before" on next paragraph?

The possibilities are:

  • they sum
  • the larger value takes precedence
  • it depends on whether the paragraphs have the same style

Unless you can specify how these interact, you have to create special styles to apply depending on what the preceding (or following) style is. For example, I have a number of paragraphs that are comprised of a pair of tick boxes and captions. I want extra spacing around these line, but I also want to vary the spacing when there are multiple lines of tick boxes.

I need four styles.
Tick Box - sets up the tabs and the initial indent. Sets before and after spacing for an isolated tick box line.
Tick Box Middle - derives from Tick Box. Set up before and after spacing for line with Tick Boxes before and after.
Tick Box Top - derives from Tick Box Middle. Sets up spacing-before same as for Tick Box.
Tick Box Bottom - derives from Tick Box Middle. Sets up spacing-after same as Tick Box.

This works a treat, until I place a Tick Box line immediately after a heading-styled paragraph with an extra spacing-after. Then I get the accumulated values of the heading after and the Tick Box before. The preferred behaviour wold be for the larger value to swallow the smaller. That way, I can safely specify both before and after values on styles knowing that the styles with smaller values of spacing-before will all start at the some offset beneath a heading style with a large spacing-after.

The preferred behaviour wold be for the larger value to swallow the smaller.

Well that is one possibility, although I am not sure everyone would agree, as there are situations where specifying exact values are required. An alternate “preferred” behaviour would be for the Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style option that is available via direct formatting (Format > Paragraph… > Indents & Spacing tab > Spacing section) to be made available when editing paragraph styles. This would at least allow for one paragraph (pseudo-list) style to be defined, rather than the four currently required.

I generally avoid defining spacing after headings for the reason indicated. Headings are best defined in a manner that encourages separation from prior content rather than ensuing content.

I have the same need as pbw and came to his same solution, 4 styles: isolated, initial, middle and final. But since there are nearly as many lay-out ideas as users of text processors, there is no way to define a commonly agreed “preferred” method. Behaviour should be user-configurable.

“Swallowing” the smaller spacing is the option chosen by HTML (if I remember correctly), but, as pointed out, there are circumstances where precise manual control is a must.

How to spread desired spacing between “before” and “after” is also a long debate and also may depend on cultural aspects (e.g. it seems to me that US styles are biased toward “before” spacing with 0 “after” spacing" while in some European countries spacing is balanced between both sides). I belong to this second “school” and it helps be guarantee that I’ll never end up with 0-before, 0-after paragraph which would not be distinguished from the neighbouring ones.

I remember in one of the text processors I used in the past that “before” spacing could be made conditional: if the paragraph was the first of the page, conditional “before” spacing was suppressed. This was useful mainly for heading paragraphs. On the contrary, in cover or “intermediate-art” pages, spacing was unconditional to precisely position titles and other elements.

Having these spaces under control would be great but I fear this would mean to define rules in a language to be defined and this would not be for a newbie. Maybe some ideas could be taken from selectors and cascade in CSS?