I'm not sure whether or not this is standard practice, but I've been taught that between two different-level headings, there shouldn't be any text. For example, the following would not be permitted (or is at least considered bad practice):

1. Chapter

blah ← no text here

1.1. Subchapter

Following this convention, should all text be at the same structuring depth?

I.e. all text would be for example at X.Y.Z. level, and no text at A.B. level.


1. Chapter

blah ← no text here (depth=1), because chapter 2 has text at depth=2

2. Chapter

2.1 Subchapter


Note: I'm aware that chapters aren't supposed to stand alone (i.e. if there's chapter 1.1, there has to be at least a 1.2), but I omitted those for the sake of readability.

2 Answers 2


This depends to a great extent on specific style guides (i.e. what each university, organization, or publisher requires). So, to be 100% certain, simply refer to the specific style guide.

Parenthetically, while writing my doctoral dissertation, I was told never to leave a section (that is, even a super-section) without any text. If you have 2. then 2.1, there had to be something written between them, even if it were simply a summation of what would follow.

By the way, another factor that affects all these is the field of discipline. English literature has, I'm sure, different requirements compared to, say, Math.

As I said, the only way to be certain is to refer to the style guide of whichever university/organization/publisher you're writing the text for

  • This isn't specified in the style guide, unfortunately (if it was, this question wouldn't exist in the first place). Thanks either way :) Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 16:02
  • 2
    If there isn't a style guide, simply pick what suits your writing best (or, if applicable, what's the usual style in your field) and be consistent.
    – user16555
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 16:28
  • @PixelMaster I used to be a technical editor at a software company. The house style was to never leave empty space between headings or between headings and subheadings. Some kind of text, even just a sentence, needed to be inserted. However, that doesn't mean the same is true everywhere. Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 20:19

I have published several peer-reviewed scientific papers, also Master's Theses in two different disciplines and a long doctoral dissertation. Your proposed rule is not one I have ever followed, and not one any editor or reviewer ever complained about.

I take a pragmatic approach: In some sections like "Future Work", 100% of the text follows the main section heading; 7 Future Work. There are no subsections; to save space I don't subhead different kinds of future work. I might enumerate them, or might just start new paragraphs, since the description is generally short.

In other sections, I have introductory text following the main section then sub-sections and sub-sub-sections. I say "pragmatic" because if no text is necessary then I don't write any!

The point is to communicate the science in an orderly fashion, beyond that, anything there as filler to follow a form is extraneous and should be omitted. Also on the pragmatic side, unlike theses and dissertations, most journals have a page limit, and I compress away as much of the headings as I can to fit more prose or charts into the writing, because I am usually up against the page limit.

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