Is 78 characters still a good option? Was: [Haskell-cafe] breaking too long lines

Thomas Davie tom.davie at
Thu Apr 23 04:17:58 EDT 2009

On 23 Apr 2009, at 10:02, Matthijs Kooijman wrote:

>>  Some material I've read on typography -- can't find the
>>  reference now -- suggests ~65 is the best number of characters
>>  per line. The advice was, if your page is larger than that,
>>  you should make columns.
> That fits my observations. In particular, I noticed that your emails  
> were
> particularly comfortable to read, which might also be partly be  
> caused by the
> extra indent at the start of your lines, which also seems  
> comfortable. Not
> sure how applicabable all this is to code, though :-)

I think the non-applicable to code observation is very likely true –  
we'd like to be able to write nice descriptive variable names.  In  
doing this, we probably want them to be more than the 1 or 2  
characters that Haskellers traditionally use, maybe of the order of  

Given this, it would seem a shame to only be able to fit 6-13  
litterals on a line, that sounds like we'll quickly be having to wrap  
lines with deffinititions of any significance on them.

My personal preference with Haskell is to ignore the 78 character  
"limit", but only when layout otherwise becomes horrible otherwise.

Haskell is a very horizontal language, and to limit our horizontal  
space seems pretty weird.


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