Recently, I've been reading about page layout and readability. Many web twits hold forth about various rules of thumb: alphabet and a half = 39 characters, newspaper article width = 50-60 characters, 20 times font height, I typeset my website by hand and only have enough type for 44 characters, etc.

Reading speed serves as a good proxy for readability (the more readable something is, the faster you can read it). Wichita State University ran a study on reading speed of various width lines (35, 55, 75, 95 characters per line). Guess which won?

The 95. That tells me that the biggest hindrance to reading is the eyeball carriage return. Less carriage returns means fewer number of eyeball bounces back to the beginning of the line.

Is that why there is no formatting in the comments? If we can't insert a break, the lines go on forever...:p -- Nathan

Actually, it was all part of a longitudinal usability study. Theoretically, the last CSS update fixed all that and pre-formatting works. Setting white-space to pre-wrap should allow comments to have paragraphs and code in them, wrapping the paragraphs automagically, while preserving the display of tabs and spaces... # huffman coding python... def say(*strings): print ' '.join(strings)

Long lines may indeed increase reading speed, however, at least in my case, they decrease reading pleasure. On several occassions I've gone so far as to write greasemonkey scripts to reformat other peoples long lines to improve my reading experience. -- David W

Good point, time to add a font larger / smaller, and a text wider / narrower toolset to this site. -- Patrick