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Line/Word Wrap Philosophy


6/23/13: Found a webpage where someone actually agrees with me. Amazing... Added Wikipedia links, minor rewording, and fixed section capitalization.

6/1/4: Added link highlighting, first reference news entry (but I'm sure I created it before then), and "Rebuttal" and Google Groups to Cons. Edited Long URLs to reflect differences between Netscape Navigator 4.xx (I haven't tried Netscape 6+ to see how it handles wrapping single-line URLs) and IE.

6/6/3: Tweaked long URLs so the links reflect what actually happens inside newsreaders.

6/4/3: Added section titles and a new one: "Long URLs".

10/5/2K: minor editing

3/31/2K: First reference to this page in newsgroups.


As I've explained a billion times now in the newsgroups, I decided it was time to make a webpage about my line/word wrap philosophy so people quit bugging me about it (or so I at least don't have to re-explain it constantly).

Letting the receiver's newsreader or email client (both referred to as "text reader" from now on) window width wrap the lines (referred to as "long lines") allows the receiver to control how it sees the lines and not be forced to read text how the sender wants them to. If you want short line lengths, simply resize your window or set your text reader to wrap lines at whatever length you like. With all the varying graphical user interface (GUI) text readers, GUI operating system (OS) screen resolutions, and monitor sizes, arbitrary, small line lengths just don't cut it anymore. Non-GUI text readers may be out of luck, but oh well. People who still use obsolete ASCII text readers deserve (and, frankly, are quite used to) the inconvienence and there's no sense in penalizing GUI text readers for archaic, primitive, ASCII text readers that can't handle longer line lengths.

Quoted text

Longer line lengths reduces the amount of quoted text breakup. For example:

Now, the same quoted (slightly altered) text quoted twice:

Now, the same quoted (slightly altered) text with longer line lengths:

Try it yourself. Resize your web browser's window to around 1/5 screen width. HTML's new line code ("<br>") acts just like text reader linefeeds and mimmicks what happens when short line lengths which contain forced linefeeds are quoted again and again. This quoted text breakup only gets worse the more it's quoted, while the only thing that happens with long or no-length line lengths is an increase in quoted text indicators (assuming the quoters are all using long or no-length line lengths, leaving the wordwrap intact:

The only problem I've found with longer line lengths and quoted text is that most text readers aren't programmed to put the quoted text indicators before every wrapped line. The simple solution is to leave a blank quoted line after each paragraph so as to minimize confusion between quoted and non-quoted text. Eventually it would be nice if text reader programmers added this functionality, but until then this simple workaround will have to suffice.

There's even a program called MessageCleaner designed to reformat screwed up quoted text due to short line lengths.

HTML quoting makes linewrapping even easier to read, as it does put quoted text indicators before every wrapped line, but HTML messages tend to be larger in number of lines (which results in larger file sizes) than straight/plain ASCII messages. Anyway, I'm not advocating HTML messages, but simply longer (or no-length) line lengths.

Long URLs

Short line lengths break up URLs (links) because carriage returns (CRs)/linefeeds (new lines) are hard-coded into the URL, thereby causing it to fail (or at least screw up) in web browsers and requiring multiple copy-pastes into the web browser's URL entry field:

Longer line lengths (or no line length for really long URLs) will make the URL into a single line (in Netscape Navigator 4.xx anyway; IE6 wraps the lines after every "?" and "%" character but it still works as a single-line URL):

There is TinyURL but why bother when you can simply increase your line length and not have this problem in the first place?


Arguments against long line lengths include: newspaper/magazine articles, paperback books, and textbooks. Newspapers/magazine articles tend to have multiple columns per page, but this is mainly due to get more article introductions per page which tend to be continued later on, as well as to provide space for advertising. Paperback books tend to be relatively small, and textbooks usually have large side margins for footnotes/etc, but I've seen both book types with long line lengths and have been able to read them fine.

Google Groups also displays long line lengths without wrapping, which is the fault of using the "<pre>" HTML tag (which there's no reason to use).


Sure reading shorter lines may be easier, but, again, simply resize your text reader to however narrow you like. And what about school essays/papers/reports? They are page-width (8.5" give or take 2" or so for margins) and vary in font size, yet I've never heard one of my teachers complain. Typing of font size, that's another thing that can be changed that will affect characters per line. Web pages (like this one) and Web-based discussion forums and bulletin boards also tend to have window-width line lengths.

Take back control and get over it!

My point in all of this is: it's all about control, people. Take back control of your text reader. "You have the power", "welcome to the next level", "upgrade or die" (of obsoletion), etc... So, please, people, get a clue and hopefully you'll realize why longer line lengths (or, better yet, none at all) really are better.

And, finally, GET OVER IT! I'm not changing my line length settings so don't bother posting a long, drawn-out response to my defense of why I post the way I do. Persist and I'll simply filter you. <shrug> It's that simple.

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