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25.2 Sentences

The Emacs commands for manipulating sentences and paragraphs are mostly on Meta keys, like the word-handling commands.

M-a

Move back to the beginning of the sentence (backward-sentence).

M-e

Move forward to the end of the sentence (forward-sentence).

M-k

Kill forward to the end of the sentence (kill-sentence).

C-x DEL

Kill back to the beginning of the sentence (backward-kill-sentence).

The commands M-a (backward-sentence) and M-e (forward-sentence) move to the beginning and end of the current sentence, respectively. Their bindings were chosen to resemble C-a and C-e, which move to the beginning and end of a line. Unlike them, M-a and M-e move over successive sentences if repeated.

Moving backward over a sentence places point just before the first character of the sentence; moving forward places point right after the punctuation that ends the sentence. Neither one moves over the whitespace at the sentence boundary.

Just as C-a and C-e have a kill command, C-k, to go with them, M-a and M-e have a corresponding kill command: M-k (kill-sentence) kills from point to the end of the sentence. With a positive numeric argument n, it kills the next n sentences; with a negative argument -n, it kills back to the beginning of the nth preceding sentence.

The C-x DEL (backward-kill-sentence) kills back to the beginning of a sentence.

The sentence commands assume that you follow the American typist’s convention of putting two spaces at the end of a sentence. That is, a sentence ends wherever there is a ‘.’, ‘?’ or ‘!’ followed by the end of a line or two spaces, with any number of ‘)’, ‘]’, ‘'’, or ‘'’ characters allowed in between. A sentence also begins or ends wherever a paragraph begins or ends. It is useful to follow this convention, because it allows the Emacs sentence commands to distinguish between periods that end a sentence and periods that indicate abbreviations.

If you want to use just one space between sentences, you can set the variable sentence-end-double-space to nil to make the sentence commands stop for single spaces. However, this has a drawback: there is no way to distinguish between periods that end sentences and those that indicate abbreviations. For convenient and reliable editing, we therefore recommend you follow the two-space convention. The variable sentence-end-double-space also affects filling (see Fill Commands).

The variable sentence-end controls how to recognize the end of a sentence. If non-nil, its value should be a regular expression, which is used to match the last few characters of a sentence, together with the whitespace following the sentence (see Regexps). If the value is nil, the default, then Emacs computes sentence ends according to various criteria such as the value of sentence-end-double-space.

Some languages, such as Thai, do not use periods to indicate the end of a sentence. Set the variable sentence-end-without-period to t in such cases.

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