Semantic linefeeds, a writing aid

Reading Semantic Linefeeds — Brandon Rhodes

Start each sentence on a new line. Make lines short, and break lines at natural places, such as after commas and semicolons, rather than randomly. Since most people change documents by rewriting phrases and adding, deleting and rearranging sentences, these precautions simplify any editing you have to do later.
— Brian W. Kernighan, 1974

I’ve read Brandon Rhodes’ Semantic Linefeeds a few times over the years, usually having been linked to it by another writer. The practice generally finds its way into some of my writing, but never quite sticks.

For the unfamiliar, a linefeed is a carriage-return. Terms of art from the age of typewriters which we more often call line breaks in the digital age. When Rhodes talks about semantic linefeeds he’s suggesting that the linefeed, like any other feature of presentation, should be used first and foremost as a tool for establishing meaning, and only secondarily as a means of applying aesthetic order.

Well, I came across it again this morning as I re-read Gwern Branwen’s design document and all afternoon I have been writing in this style, perhaps I’ll stick with it this time.