Don't split your long lines into multiple lines

It's called by many terms, including word wrap, newlines, and hard returns.

The maximum amount of text on each line should be determined by the reader, not predetermined by the composer of the message.  How much text fits or looks good on a line, is probably different for the composer than for the recipient.  For example, a given character varies in width depending on font and size, and screen widths vary greatly.  Therefor, neither you nor your computer should start a new line mid-sentence for the message recipient.  Avoid forced arbitrary line-length limits (FALLL).  Forcing text to start on a new line should be done only to convey meaning, such as to signify a new item or paragraph.

Two situations cause forced arbitrary line-length limits; avoid both:

The shorter the limit of the width of lines you send, the more scrolling is needed to view it.  Plus, when printing messages with short lines on paper, more paper is wasted.

Three situations cause lines lengths to appear staggered, hindering readability.  Every other line is the short remainder that didn't fit on the previous line.

If you can't prevent your message software from automatically splitting lines longer than a certain length for the recipient, don't manually force lines any longer than where the software will break them.  And, any lines longer than that length which are included from previous messages, should be either combined, or broken manually to the length, or shorter, that they will be broken.  Otherwise the resulting varying line lengths will cause the text to be less readable.  Also, don't include links longer than a length which will sent unbroken, otherwise the link will not work.

Even if all software split lines at the exact same line length, the character sometimes prefixed to forwarded and replied-to lines will cause problems.  Prefixing each line of forwarded or replied plain-text messages exacerbates the problem of line splitting, even if all software limited lines to the same lengths.  By lengthening each line each time it's included in subsequent messages, prefixing causes split lines to be split.  Once every few times the message is forwarded, another line containing one word is created for each line.

Usually message-composing software will, as you type, automatically start a new line for the current word whenever that word doesn't fit on the previous line.  That's good as long as the software does that only for your convenience, and sends the lines unbroken to the recipient.

Some very old email-reading software might have a problem with lines longer than 79 characters, or won't automatically wrap lines for convenient viewing, but those problems are rare.

More information elsewhere

[up one level] [home] [about] [copyright] [contact] This page changed 2003 April 11.