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Does "line" always mean row, or can it be used as a substitute for "sentence" when referencing text?

Dictionary definitions seem to define "line" as one row of text. This seems a bit restrictive to me, though ... For example, actors can partake in the activity of "reading lines". In that case it seems to be referring to reading sentences.

I am asking because I am trying to have a nice reference structure when referring to specific parts of a scientific paper. To write "methods/statistics/, paragraph 2, lines 4-5" seems more aesthetically pleasing than "methods/statistics/, paragraph 2, sentences 4-5". Is the usage of "lines" (to mean the fourth and the fifth sentence) correct here?

If I am completely in the wrong, what is the nicest way to refer to specific portions of text without using the page/row style? I want to avoid page/row, because it is too much busy work to edit page numbers if you change something major early in the text.

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  • No, lines 4-5 does not mean fourth and fifth sentences. It means fourth and fifth lines. Unless each sentence is one line long, the meanings are different.
    – GEdgar
    May 23, 2016 at 13:32
  • It is common to use numbered sections, e.g. § 176. A simple index is much easier to navigate than a hierarchy.
    – TimR
    May 23, 2016 at 13:48
  • If you are working with a fixed layout (and appropriate versioning), then lines can be referenced unambiguously. However, if the documents (most likely digital) can be formatted differently depending on things like the size of your screen or window, then you're better off sticking with sentence numbers. This question might be more appropriate on academia.
    – Lawrence
    May 23, 2016 at 14:11
  • Further to @Lawrence's comment - unless you're using a specific format like LaTeX. or outputting to something more fixed like PDF, ordinary word-processed documents have a habit or re-paginating even if you simply change the target printer. So line numbers are, at best, a moveable feast unless you make sure they stay still. May 23, 2016 at 14:17

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I am asking because I am trying to have a nice reference structure when referring to specific parts of a scientific paper. To write "methods/statistics/, paragraph 2, lines 4-5" seems more aesthetically pleasing than "methods/statistics/, paragraph 2, sentences 4-5". Is the usage of "lines" (to mean the fourth and the fifth sentence) correct here?

No that doesn't mean the same thing. Sentence 4 might not be on line 4 and will probably extend through more than one line. It's much easier to find line 4 than sentence 4

If I am completely in the wrong, what is the nicest way to refer to specific portions of text without using the page/row style? I want to avoid page/row, because it is too much busy work to edit page numbers if you change something major early in the text.

Microsoft Word contents pages automatically update if a section moves onto a different page

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    It's been a while, but I'm sure Word supports references to named fields (via bookmarks, IIRC) - so you can bookmark the text, then reference it from anywhere else through a cross-reference that automatically inserts the page number, the text itself or above/below as applicable. You can also specifically reference headings and sub-headings, which is what the ToC effectively is. May 23, 2016 at 14:14

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