I just got a copy of Royal Skousen's The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text (Yale, 2009),
and was immediately struck by his implementation of what he calls "sense-lines":
that is,
the editor adds extra line breaks
—sometimes mid-sentence—
to improve readability.
For example, instead of:

And it is I that granteth unto him that believeth in the end a place at my right hand.

he prints:

And it is I that granteth unto him that believeth
in the end a place at my right hand.

The line break between "believeth" and "in the end"
makes it clearer to the reader
that "in the end" goes with "granteth",
not with "believeth".
It does it in a way that is relatively unobtrusive.

Skousen, referencing Alberto Manguel's A History of Reading,
says that "sense-lines" were used by pre-Gutenberg scribes
as a primitive form of punctuation called per cola et commata.
More recently, they were used by Bradbury Thompson
in his gorgeous The Washburn College Bible (Oxford, 1979).

Wanting to learn more, I tried Googling "sense-lines",
but I wasn't able to find anyone else using this term.
I looked up some more info about The Washburn College Bible.
The description calls it a "phrased" version,
but that didn't improve my Google search results, either.
Googling per cola et commata did turn up lots of info about the ancient practice,
but not about its modern use.

It seems programmers are encouraged to implement this practice when writing documentation.
Their word for "sense-lines" is "semantic linefeeds".
This term doesn't appear to be used outside the industry, though.

In education,
a similar practice
is the reading strategy called "chunking".
Chunking sometimes uses line breaks,
but more often uses slashes.

I'm hoping to find a copy of one of Charles Dicken's books
re-typeset with sense-lines:
"pre-chunked", if you will.
I have trouble parsing his sentences,
but I don't want to read a paraphrased version.
I haven't been able to find anything like this
and I think it's because I'm not using the right terminology.

What is the term for the version of a book
where the original text is unchanged,
but extra line breaks have been added to make it more readable?


Audiobook narrators prefer to read from the ______ edition of a book, as it reduces the number of times they have to repeat a sentence to get the emphasis correct.

Our study found a 23% increase in reading comprehension in the group with the ____ version of the essay.

Bonus question: Do you know of any other books typeset this way?

2 Answers 2


Colometric or Colometrized

Definition of colometry : measurement or division (as of a manuscript or a rhythmic utterance) by cola

(Merriam-Webster, emphasis added)

Fun fact: I just learned that "cola" is the plural of "colon".

This article helpfully describes colometry as "having line-divisions correpond to sense-units", and goes on to say

The ancient Greeks and Romans recognized that sentences are formed from smaller units, which they called cola (longer units, sometimes equivalent to clauses) and commata (shorter units, corresponding generally to phrases)...

Modern research in linguistics has confirmed that when line-breaks coincide with semantic breaks, people not only read faster but comprehend texts better...

("A Structural Arrangement of Text to Facilitate Reading", Rebecca R. Harrison, The Classical Journal Vol. 102, No. 3 (Feb. - Mar., 2007), pp. 291-303)

Harrison takes it farther than just line breaks, using indents to show subordinate clauses:

 We the people of the United States,
     [in order to form a more perfect union,
                  establish justice,
                  insure domestic tranquility,
                  provide for the common defense,
                  promote the general welfare,
                  and secure the blessings of liberty
                           to ourselves and our posterity,]
                                    do ordain
                                       and establish this Constitution
                                                     for the United States of America.

(Principles of per cola et commata)


When Jerome translated the books of the Prophets, he arranged the text colometrically.

(Wikipedia, "Colon (rhetoric)")

The fact that the scribe of 5/6 of Psalms did not intend to achieve a straight left margin has resulted in a colometric layout that is less ambiguous than the layout of the Aleppo Codex.

(Studies in Scriptural Unit Division, Marjo Christina Annette Korpel and Josef M. Oesch, p. 251)

  • This seems a better fit for what the OP wants. Good find!
    – jxh
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 20:25

When I see sentences broken early as a way to control reading flow or idea emphasis, I think of poetry. It seems the relevant term is enjambment:

A line break is the place where a line of poetry ends, unguided by traditional punctuation conventions. Line breaks are important in poetry because they so often introduce ambiguity and affect meaning. ...

The technique of carrying a sentence over into another line is called enjambment. Its opposite, using punctuation to signify a break, is end-stopping.
Chegg Study

  • Enjambement is kind of the opposite: line breaks don't match structure or phrasing.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 7:29
  • @StuartF I see the usage is often done to force stanzas to fit a particular pattern, but I am simply speaking to the action of splitting a sentence. The reason for splitting could be for semantic clarity.
    – jxh
    Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 8:24

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