Did you ever notice that I stopped tabbing the paragraphs on my essays? It’s a little thing. One of those nitpicky things that my teachers railed into me. What’s wild? My college professors never said a word when I began challenging this norm.
Why would they? It literally makes no difference in the reading/editing experience. It is a minor part of prescriptive writing. What probably happened is that an editor, once upon a time, said to his (it was almost definitely a man) colleagues (more likely than not also males) that this was important to him. Now, middle schoolers across the world are expected to execute on these arbitrary expectations.
Or - we consider the age of the typewriter. Potentially, there were some mechanical needs from the printing press and/or typewriter. Some justification for leaving this blank space that ended up remaining and withstanding the test of time.
As it turns out, the answer is a blend of both of the above. A google search revealed a brilliant article from Print Mag. Here is the link. The highlight, “Initially it seems there was a practice of leaving an indented area for illustrators to fill in an ornament or illuminated capital.”
This remained as we continued into the world of typewriters and mass media. Old habits die hard. Ultimately, it’s a style choice. I also have a beef with all the unnecessary words that the English language demands. Grammarly is always trying to include words that don’t add value. Brevity is important. Why waste everyone’s time with words that bring nothing in terms of effective communication.