Is 78 characters still a good option? Was: [Haskell-cafe]
breaking too long lines
robgreayer at yahoo.com
Tue Apr 21 23:57:40 EDT 2009
wren ng thornton <wren at freegeek.org> wrote:
> There is a deeper reason. Much work in typography has shown
> that humans read text best when it's around 76
> characters wide; if things get narrower than that then
> cohesion is lost, if things get wider then it takes a long
> time to acquire the beginning of the next line.
My impression of the research is that it isn't nearly so conclusive. See  for a brief survey of findings for online reading speed/comprehension and a relatively recent study. The results are all over the place. Nevertheless, your later point - code /= text, is key. I'd expect there's a study that focuses on code, though I don't have one at my fingertips. I imagine reading speed for code is overall much lower than for natural language, which I expect is an important factor affecting eye movement. I'd also guess that reading patterns are quite different -- scanning backward or forward to find a definition, etc. It's different enough that I'd discount research focusing on natural language text as being relevant.
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