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While paragrafo is very similar to "paragraph" in English and "paragraphe" in French, some people say it is an error to use it for this and the word alineo should be preferred. What is the difference between them and when should they be used?

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Paragrafo

A "paragrafo" is a section of the text which usually consists of more than one "alineo". So this is the first "alineo" of this "paragrafo" with the title "Paragrafo".

('Paragrafo' also has a meaning for legal texts. Second "alineo")

Alineo

After an "alineo" you begin a new line, sometimes with indenting.

This is the second "alineo" of this "paragrafo" about "Alineo".

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According to PIV/vortaro.net:

  • alineo: Peco de teksto, normale konsistanta el pluraj frazoj, komenciĝanta per nova linio k ofte distingita de aliaj alineoj per vertikala spaco, deŝovo de la unua linio ks/piece of text normally consisting of multiple sentences, beginning with a new line and often distinguished from other paragraphs with vertical space, indent of the first line, etc.
  • paragrafo: Ĉiu el la sekcioj de ĉapitro, en jura aŭ didaktika teksto, ordinare montritaj de aparta signo (§ aŭ ¶) aŭ de cifero/Each of the sections of a chapter in legal or dictated text, ordinarily shown by a specific symbol or letter

So, it seems that paragrafo applies only to legal documents and the like, while alineo is more general.

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    From the PIV entry of paragrafo: “paragrafo povas enteni plurajn alineojn”. A paragrafo is a section of a text like a subchapter, while an alineo just is one block text that starts and ends with a new line. Basically, every time you press ‘enter’ you start a new alineo, but not necessarily a new paragrafo. – Joffysloffy Oct 4 '16 at 6:34

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