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A Comprehensive Guide on How to Line Break in Python

Learn how to create a line break for a string in Python and create proper indentation using backslashes, parentheses, and other delimiters.
May 2024  · 7 min read

Line breaks are natural in the Python programming language, which is known for its simplicity and readability. In fact, line breaks and indentation are considered as one of the language's distinguishing features. 

In this tutorial, we'll explore line breaks in Python: the syntax, usage, and best practices. We will teach you how to use line breaks effectively which will keep your code organized, readable, and easy to maintain.

When you finish this tutorial, check out the Python programming track at DataCamp to become an expert.

The Short Answer: How to Line Break in Python

For those in a hurry, adding a line break in Python is as simple as using the backslash character \. This method is easy to remember and effective for formatting strings in your code. Here’s an example of creating a string with a line break, where the words ‘Hello’ and ‘World’ appear on the same line when printed:

my_string = "Hello \
World"
print(my_string)
Hello World

Understanding Line Breaks in Python

Line breaks in Python divide lengthy lines of code into digestible segments, making it much easier for programmers to read and write code. Effective line breaks, therefore, contribute to the clarity and elegance of a Python script.

However, we should say that it's all the same for a machine since line breaks have no effect on how a program runs.

Exploring Line Continuation Techniques

There are a few different ways to tell Python that your code continues on the next line. These fall into two buckets: explicit line continuation and implicit line continuation. Let’s explore each.

Explicit line continuation with backslashes

Explicit line continuation involves using the backslash (\) character at the end of a line to show that the statement extends to the next line. Here’s an example of a Python line break in a string:

long_string = "This is a very long string that \
spans multiple lines for readability."

We can see that this line break is only for the code. When you print the string, the sentence is on one line.

Example of a Python line break and the how line breaks affects strings.Python code with line break included

Implicit line continuation with parentheses and other delimiters

Python allows implicit line continuation within parentheses, square brackets, or curly braces, without the need for explicit backslashes. 

my_list = [
"item1",
"item2",
"item3"
]

There is no backslash in the code that must be omitted in the output. 

Example of how the Python line break affects lists.Example of how line breaks affect lists   

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Mistakes with backslashes

It can be easy to make mistakes with backslashes. Misplacing or omitting them can result in syntax errors and code ambiguity. For instance, forgetting to place a backslash where necessary might lead to unintended line breaks or invalid syntax.

To avoid this, always ensure that backslashes are correctly positioned to indicate line continuation. Make sure you use a single backslash (\) to indicate a line break; a double backslash (\\) will cause errors. Remember that a double backslash has other uses, such as regular expressions, which you can learn about in our Regular Expressions in Python course. 

Misuse of delimiters in continuation

Another pitfall to watch out for is the misuse of delimiters for implicit line continuation. While parentheses, square brackets, and curly braces facilitate implicit line continuation, misusing them can lead to syntax errors or unexpected behavior.

Using delimiters appropriately ensures that expressions remain logically and syntactically correct. Be mindful of where you place these delimiters to maintain your code's intended structure and readability. Testing and reviewing code segments involving implicit line continuation can help identify and rectify any misuse of delimiters early on.

Check out our Exception and Error Handling in Python tutorial to learn more about finding and correcting errors.

Best Practices and Guidelines

The recommended line length for code varies by the coding standards used by your team and personal preferences. PEP 8, the official Python style guide, recommends lines of code to be at most 79 characters long. This reasoning is based on the historical standard of 80-character-wide terminals, which would leave the final character for a new line.

A rule of thumb I learned was to put a line break wherever necessary to ensure I could read the entire line of code without using a horizontal scroll bar.

Indentation and alignment for continuation

When inserting line breaks, it is essential to maintain the correct indentation in the line. Remember, indentation matters for code execution in Python.

def calculate_total(item_price, item_quantity, tax_rate, discount_percentage):
    total_price = (
        (item_price * item_quantity) -
        ((item_price * item_quantity) * (discount_percentage / 100)) +
        ((item_price * item_quantity) * tax_rate)
    )
    return total_price

When to use explicit vs. implicit line continuation

Explicit line continuation with backslashes is typically used when syntax requires continuing onto the next line or emphasizing clarity in long expressions or statements.

Implicit line continuation within parentheses, square brackets, or curly braces is often favored for its readability and simplicity, especially when dealing with lists, tuples, dictionaries, or method chaining.

Choosing between explicit and implicit line continuation techniques depends on the specific context and the desired balance between readability and syntactic precision. Use what works best for your situation.

Conclusion

By using line breaks in your code, you can craft Python scripts that are cleaner, more elegant, and easier to understand and maintain in the long run.

Learn more about PEP 8 code standards in Python and create a learning plan with our expert guide. Finally, check out DataCamp’s Python programmer career track to set yourself up for success in the industry. 

Keep up the good work creating beautiful Python code!


Photo of Amberle McKee
Author
Amberle McKee

I am a PhD with 13 years of experience working with data in a biological research environment. I create software in several programming languages including Python, MATLAB, and R. I am passionate about sharing my love of learning with the world.

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