Line breaks: general

turned line line break
lb cb l

Line breaks in general are encoded with lb, with the exception of verse lines.

The TEI provides a single element, lb, to encode line breaks. Like the other break elements (cb and pb), this is an empty element and may go anywhere; it marks a break in the line without interfering with the rest of the markup. By convention, as with the pb and cb elements, the lb element is understood to mark the beginning of a new line, and any information it carries applies to that line, not to the one preceding it.

Line breaks, while typographically straightforward, become more complex when represented in an encoded text. In principle, it would be simple to encode every line break in the source text using the lb element. In a text where the lineation is an important reference structure, this would be a sensible approach: the lb element can carry an n attribte to reprsent the overall line numbering. However, for most texts this approach is either excessive or insufficiently informative, or both. It is excessive in cases where some line breaks are unimportant (for instance, many projects may choose to ignore line breaks within prose), and it is overly literalistic in cases where not only the line breaks but also their relationship to the textual structure is important. In some contexts, a line break represents an important structural boundary (for instance, in verse) while in others it represents a material constraint deriving from the size of the page.

The approach we recommend provides the conceptual tools for handling lineation at a useful level of detail and abstraction. It can be simplified at the project’s discretion by omitting whatever information is considered unnecessary.

Line breaks within elements are encoded with lb. For a project that wishes to reproduce (or at least capture) the original lineation of the text, this includes line breaks within headings, list items, paragraphs, and so forth. As noted above, unless the lineation of the text is important as a reference structure, we do not recommend encoding line numbers.

Line breaks between elements (that is, the fact that an element begins on a new line) are encoded using the renditional attribute: rend="break(yes|no)". Wherever possible, this information should be encoded as part of the default rendition for each element. Defaults can be set globally (i.e. outside the individual document) for certain elements which seem especially predictable, and for these the encoder only needs to specify a document-level default (or a local exception) if the text (or specific instance of an element) differs from the normal pattern. For more modern texts, these global defaults will be completely intuitive (for instance, the default for persName is no and for head is yes). For suggestions on how these global defaults might be set for commonly occurring elements, see the entry on renditional defaults.

Lines of poetry are handled differently, since a poetic line is typically a metrically rather than typographically defined unit. Lines of poetry are encoded using l, which encloses the entire line rather than simply marking its beginning. For detailed information on encoding poetry, see the entry on encoding line groups and related entries. Within a line of poetry, any additional (typographical) line breaks are encoded with lb.

Poetic lines are sometimes broken purposefully, either to indicate a paragraph break within the poetic narrative (which may fall in the middle of a poetic line) or to indicate a shift of speaker (as in dramatic verse). In these cases, each segment of the poetic line should be encoded with l, and the second line should include a rend="break(yes)" to indicate that it is placed on a new line. The part attribute should be used on both l elements to indicate that they form a single metrical unit. The possible values for this attribute are I, M, and F, for the initial, medial, and final portions of the line. A line must have an initial and a final part, and it may have zero or more medial parts. For more detail, see the entries on overlapping structures and on handling overlap in verse.


Example 1.

Line breaks in prose:

<p>However much I tried, I could not
<lb/>reconcile myself to this course, which
<lb/>seemed both reckless and ill-considered.</p>

Example 2.

Lines and line breaks in poetry

<lg type="stanza">
<l>The birds are late returning to their nest.</l>
<l>They really can’t be counted on to know
<lb/>what’s best.</l>

Example 3.

Part lines in poetry

<lg type="para">
<l>He solitary wandered, while the maid</l>
<l>Whose peerless beauty won his yielding heart</l>
<l>Condemn’d by lordly, needy persecution</l>
<l part="I">Pined in monastic horrors!</l></lg>
<lg type="para"><l part="F">Near his sill</l>
<l>A little cross he reared; where prostrate he</l>...