Wikipedia:Line break handling

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This page explains different methods for creating, controlling and preventing line breaks and word wraps in Wikipedia articles and pages.

When a paragraph or line of text is too long to fit on one line, web browsers, like many other programs, automatically wrap the text to the next line. Web browsers usually insert the word wraps where there are spaces in the text.

Causing line breaks[edit]

See also: Wikipedia:Don't use line breaks.

There are several ways to force line breaks and paragraph breaks in the text. The simplest method is by inserting newlines. Here is a code example:

A single newline in the code does not cause a visible line break.
The paragraph is word wrapped where necessary.
An empty line in the code causes a paragraph break.

And two empty lines in the code cause an extra wide paragraph break.


And this line of text<br />will break in the middle.

It renders like this:

A single newline in the code does not cause a visible line break. The paragraph is word wrapped where necessary. An empty line in the code causes a paragraph break.

And two empty lines in the code cause an extra wide paragraph break.


And this line of text
will break in the middle.

The <br /> tag is used for a single forced line break. This can for instance be useful in a parameter of an infobox template, since tighter line spacing than paragraph breaks are often preferred inside boxes. The <br /> tag used here is not really HTML markup but "HTML wikimarkup" that gets interpreted by MediaWiki.

The Poem extension adds HTML-like <poem>...</poem> tags to maintain newlines and spaces. This is useful for longer blocks of text such as poems, lyrics, mottoes, oaths and the like. These tags may be used inside other tags such as <blockquote>...</blockquote>. For example:

<poem>
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
  A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
  Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
  With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
  Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
  Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
</poem>

Will render as:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
  A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
  Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
  With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
  Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
  Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

Preventing and controlling word wraps[edit]

There are several ways to prevent word wraps (line wraps) from occurring in unwanted places. This is an overview of when to use which method.

&nbsp;[edit]

The HTML entity &nbsp; is a non-breaking, or hard, space. It renders like a normal space " ", but prevents a line wrap from occurring, like this:

Lots of text 10&nbsp;kg more text.

It may render like this:

Lots of text
10 kg more text.

But it will not render like this:

Lots of text 10
kg more text.

The nonbreaking space works within links exactly like a regular space. Thus you can link to [[J.&nbsp;R.&nbsp;R. Tolkien]] directly and it will render as J. R. R. Tolkien. The initials will not be separated across a line break.

&#8209;[edit]

Similarly, words or phrases containing hyphens normally line wrap where necessary. A non-breaking hyphen may be used to prevent this occuring, as in:

As seen in section 1&#8209;2 of the paper.

Thus, line wrapping that breaks the section identifier 1‑2 is prevented.

{{nowrap}}[edit]

The {{nowrap}} template prevents line wraps in text and links containing spaces. Consider a more complex case like "10 kg (22 lb)". It can be coded like this:

Lots of text 10&nbsp;kg&nbsp;(22&nbsp;lb) more text.

But that is slightly awkward. So in such cases it is instead recommended to use the {{nowrap}} template. Like this:

Lots of text {{nowrap|10 kg (22 lb)}} more text.

It may render like this:

Lots of text 10 kg (22 lb)
more text.

Or like this:

Lots of text
10 kg (22 lb) more text.

But it will not render like this:

Lots of text 10 kg (22
lb) more text.

In some cases {{nowrap}} doesn't work so well. For instance, when you want to prevent wraps in longer or more complex text, then it might be hard to see where the {{nowrap}} ends. Additionally, the MediaWiki template mechanisms interpret characters such as equal signs "=" and pipes "|" in template parameters as special characters, and thus they cause problems. In these cases, it is instead recommended to use {{nowrap begin}} + {{nowrap end}}, like this:

{{nowrap begin}}2 + 2 = 4{{nowrap end}} and 
{{nowrap begin}}|2| < 3{{nowrap end}}

It may render like this:

2 + 2 = 4 and
|2| < 3

But it will not render like this:

2 + 2 = 4 and |2|
< 3

Wrap between (linked) list items[edit]

In lists of links such as inside infoboxes and navboxes, use the CSS class hlist to format lists.

For occasional cases where you need to delineate two pieces of text outside of a list, you can use the templates {{·}} or {{•}} which contain a &nbsp; before the dot, thus handling some of the wrapping problems.

What about <nobr> + <wbr> + </nobr> ?[edit]

Don't use the old, proprietary HTML elements <nobr> + <wbr> + </nobr>. These elements haven't been made part of XHTML 1.0 by the World Wide Web Consortium, nor does MediaWiki allow them as an extension.

Break tags[edit]

Wikipedia currently renders XHTML 1.0 where <br /> is valid XHTML and <br> is invalid. Normally HTML Tidy will convert a variety of malformed versions of the break tag to <br /> including <br>, </br>, <br/> and <br.>.

This conversion does not work in a number of MediaWiki interface pages and can cause invalid HTML and problems rendering the page. Other wikis may not have HTML Tidy enabled, thus exported pages using an incorrect break tags will result in invalid HTML.

Eventually, Wikipedia will migrate to HTML5, where both <br /> and <br> are valid.

See also[edit]