I know that probably my place would be in a mental institution, but I'm a stickler about formatting my questions nicely.
For example, I like to start each sentence in a new line, and I don't like if a line contains just one word, from the end of a sentence.
My problem is that when I write a question, then the lower window breaks the lines in one way, but after I pose the question, the lines are broken in another way.
(I am aware that line breaks can depend on the width of your browser, but there is a maximum width, and I'm talking about that now).
For example, right now when I'm typing this long sentence, then in the lower window, the last word in this line is exactly THIS but you can see for yourself that it is not so when you are reading it.
Update right after posing the question: OMG, it again just placed a word to a new line...

Update. The answers given in the comments convinced me that it doesn't make sense to care about this.

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    $\begingroup$ You do know that this will change between devices, and even browsers, right? HTML is dynamically rendered and displayed as opposed to a PDF which is a "print media on screen". $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Oct 9, 2023 at 10:15
  • $\begingroup$ I tried and for me it is the same on different browsers (assuming large enough width) and I would assume that most people also read mathoverflow like that. $\endgroup$
    – domotorp
    Oct 9, 2023 at 10:29
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    $\begingroup$ If the "lower window" means the window showing the preview, then the tag (markdown-preview) might be suitable here. $\endgroup$ Oct 9, 2023 at 12:57
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    $\begingroup$ This is about nominations, not above posts: Can the nomination preview have the same width as the real nomination? This if from the answer posted by one of the developers - I assume it works exactly the same for the posts: "Please keep in mind that ... the text will shrink to accommodate the voting controls." In short: I guess that the width of preview is approximately the width of post + the width reserved for voting buttons. $\endgroup$ Oct 10, 2023 at 4:54
  • $\begingroup$ It's nice to know that I'm not the only person bothered by this. $\endgroup$
    – domotorp
    Oct 10, 2023 at 7:12
  • $\begingroup$ I guess you care that your text looks good in your display width, regardless of how bad it looks in other display widths. Personally, I do not worry about how text is broken between lines except for mathematical expressions broken poorly between lines. I notice (but do not obsess about) punctuation at the end of a sentence that appears by itself at the beginning of the next line. $\endgroup$ Oct 10, 2023 at 14:40
  • $\begingroup$ You can put your question into a pdf, store the pdf on the internet (personal page at university, homepage, some cloud storage, etc.) and post an MO question, that just contains the link (maybe named as 'question'). In the pdf you have full control of the question's layout. $\endgroup$ Oct 11, 2023 at 9:32
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps it does not depend much on the browser (especially if they use the same underlying rendering engine), but it definitely depends on the fonts, which differ between platforms. You will definitely not see the same line breaks on Windows and on Linux, for that reason. There is a terrible precedent of another user who left some time ago, active especially on cstheory (you can still find many of his posts), who did all kinds of micromanagement of line breaks, spacing, etc., both in posts and in comments. This resulted in a god-awful unreadable mess that only worked in his browser it appears. $\endgroup$ Oct 11, 2023 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ Let us also not forget that the layout of the site changes from time to time. Even if it is a few pixel difference, it will wreak havoc to any kind of intentional line-break placement. $\endgroup$ Oct 11, 2023 at 15:41
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    $\begingroup$ The real issue is that the mathematics community needs to move beyond pdf and page-oriented systems to a typesetting system that makes sense with the diverse screens we now have for reading mathematical texts. Worrying about line breaks on a particular system seems short-sighted--what we need rather are robust systems that enable our mathematics to look good reliably on a huge variety of screens. $\endgroup$ Oct 11, 2023 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, I fully agree with that. Yet, I see no reason why the line breaks should be different in the preview window and the actual final question. Maybe I will run a survey about how different line breaks really are for different users. $\endgroup$
    – domotorp
    Oct 12, 2023 at 4:20
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    $\begingroup$ By the way, if all you really want is to prevent a last word of a paragraph to fall on a line by itself, just use a non-breaking space: ... like this. $\endgroup$ Oct 12, 2023 at 8:22
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    $\begingroup$ It's actually a philosophical question; the entire web concept is structured around "text flows and the displaying device decides where to break the lines". Thus any consideration of the author trying to control the breaking of lines (except specifying places where a line break must be placed) is the Wrong Thing. (The gotcha is that graphic artists are obsessed with controlling line breaking etc. so they are constantly devising ways to force it, which basically Don't Work Well because the web infrastructure isn't intended to support that.) $\endgroup$
    – Dale
    Oct 15, 2023 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ @domotorp My point is that it just doesn't matter if the preview line breaking matches the final thing on your system, since in any case the odds are low for either of these to match up with what other people see, with a different screen, different browser, different text magnification, etc. It is like an author trying to make their sentences align with the sunlight on their veranda as they write the words and the pattern it makes on their tablecloth, even though perhaps nobody else will experience the words that way. $\endgroup$ Oct 15, 2023 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ +1 from me - mainly for the most recent update. $\endgroup$ Oct 24, 2023 at 11:13

3 Answers 3


This was mentioned in the comments, but perhaps spelling this out in an answer makes the situation a bit clearer.

When creating a new post (a new answer, a new question), the editor window and the preview are wider - since the upvote/downvote buttons are not present at this moment.

It seems that Stack Exchange developers are aware of that. This is an ancient question and it is about nominations rather than regular posts: Can the nomination preview have the same width as the real nomination? You can see in the answer: "Please keep in mind that ... the election text will shrink to accommodate the voting controls." (The answer was posted by Geoff Dalgas who was a SE developer for a long time.) I don't have any reason to think that questions and answers behave differently than the nomination posts during elections.

Here is a screenshot showing what I get:


However, when you subsequently edit some post, the voting controls remain there and both the editor window and the preview have the same width as in the posted question/answer. (I did not actually measure it or try to explore the code - but visually it seems to be the same.)

Again, a screenshot:


  • $\begingroup$ I only copy-pasted the text - but there was something oddly satisfying in having the sentence "probably my place would be in a mental institution" in front of me on my computer screen. Perhaps MathOverflow Inc would be willing to donate wide monitors to all users, that would improve that chances that different users would see the posts in the same way. :-) $\endgroup$ Oct 12, 2023 at 7:29

There's an experimental (as of time of writing) CSS property text-wrap. Note that the linked page includes a browser compatibility chart, which is why I linked there rather than to the actual spec. If you're using a browser which supports it and which supports user styles, you could add a user style for mathoverflow.net along the lines of

p { text-wrap: pretty; }

It may take some experimentation to narrow down the selector to just the paragraphs which you want to restyle.


This is a survey where I want to count how many people see the same line breaks as I do.
If in my original question you see the word "it." alone at the beginning of a line, then please vote this answer up, otherwise vote it down.
(If you use different ways to access mathoverflow, pick the most frequent, or the current, or just don't vote.)


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