If I'm writing the following clerihew resume where I'm constrained to 40 characters per line.

|Peter Turner                            |
|code burner                             |
|PHP, perl, python, object pascal, css,  |
|javascript, html, sql, yml, java, c++,  |
|c, tex, actionscript, bash and tsch     |
|are his niche                           | 

what punctuation can I use to convey to the audience (that hip HR person) that the 3rd line is one line and not two?

Clerihews by design are four line couplets with no perceptible meter, so it's important that the 3rd line be perceived as one line.

The above is just an example, I really just want to know what the proper punctuation to use to convey to reader that the reason we haven't rhymed yet is because the line is not done yet.

Or, if there is no proper punctuation, then I'll just make one up and move along, not asking for advice, just if there's an esoteric sense of the solidus that can come in handy here.

Like how: echo blah\ to be continued.... tells a shell not to echo "blah", but "blahto be continued..."


5 Answers 5


Two forms for long-line poetry line 'turnovers' (sometimes 'dog-leg turnovers'), or 'runovers', are conventional.

  1. One is as indicated by a previous answer: left indentation or double-left indentation of the turnovers. The second of those, double-left indentation, is best used where single indentation is already used as a signifier in surrounding textual material. The double-left indented form for line turnovers is a familiar convention for academics, and so is supported by, for example, The Chicago Manual of Style (14th, 10.23), with reference to block (that is, not in-line) poetry quotations in academic works.

10.23 In a work containing quotations from poems with lines too long to be centered on the page, such as Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself," all poetic quotations may be set with a uniform, short indentation—two or three picas from the left, for example—with any runover lines being further indented....

For verse typography and design, Chicago Manual also weighs in, but only to punt the question to the designer and author:

18.59 Works such as poems and verse plays differ from prose in that the length of a line is determined by the author, not...by the designer. The designer must try to reproduce the author's intention....

18.60 The size of type and the width of the type page should, wherever possible, accommodate the longest line...if more than a few lines must be run over, the shape of the poem may be lost.

18.61 .... Blank verse and poems characterized by a preponderance of long lines are generally not centered but are given a standard indentation. No hard-and-fast rules can be laid down here; each book must be considered with its own characteristics in mind.

  1. The other form is a convention adopted by some authors, such as Auden. In this form, the 'turnover' line is aligned under the right end of the line so extended. A practical discussion of this convention is available at Little Star Journal, in an article titled "All Poets Bulletin: Help Us Make a Poetry Style Guide". The article quotes Edward Mendelson, "expert in both poetry and typography".

The ‘turnovers’ should be set on the right, indented so that the first word of the turnover is somewhat to the left of the end of the last word of the first part of the line.

This is a line that is going to be turned over
                                            like this.

Of the two conventional forms, the best choice is yours, as the author and designer receiving the Chicago Manual punt. However, the 40-character constraint seems to me to favor double-left indentation, that is, twice the indentation of any paragraph or other significant indentation found in the surrounding text.


This totally isn't a question about the English language, but you could indent the continued parts like so:

|Peter Turner                            |
|code burner                             |
|PHP, perl, python, object pascal, css,  |
|    javascript, html, sql, yml, java,   |
|    c++, c, tex, actionscript, bash     |
|    and tsch                            |
|are his niche                           | 
  • Some times indentation like that is used for emphasis, or for a ABAB couplet style. I'd like to see evidence in print. Aug 18, 2016 at 19:11
  • 4
    Evidence in print. Aug 18, 2016 at 19:45

Max Williams has given the best workaround with that indentation suggestion. However, one other possibility is to rearrange the items in the list, thereby producing more couplets that fit into the 40-character-line limit:

|Peter Turner                            |
|code burner:                            |
|perl, python, PHP,                      |
|java, tex, bash, and c,                 |
|object pascal, actionscript,            |
|yml and javascript,                     |
|c++, html,                              |
|object pascal, yml.                     |
|All of these are his niche –            |
|did I forget to mention tsch?           |

(Of course, it's no longer a clerihew, so I've broken convention there, but I still couldn't help but wonder if those might fit into some more conventional prosodic form.)

  • 1
    OH, I forgot to say, that's awesome! Aug 22, 2016 at 13:19
  • Simply brilliant
    – Igbanam
    Apr 2, 2017 at 19:35
  • 1
    I'm mentally applauding. May 2, 2018 at 12:47

Not really a question about English, but here's a go at it:

Use a back-slash, "\", at the end of each line that is continued on the next. Many parsers I worked with would interpret it as a continuation character and so would a human reader familiar with shell coding.

|PHP, perl, python, object pascal, css,\ |

|javascript, html, sql, yml, java, c++,\ |

|c, tex, actionscript, bash and tsch |


I venture to say that there is no such thing as a "hip HR" person, but you've asked a question about punctuation, which is a matter of style. In such matters, you are best guided by your chosen manual of style. Naturally, in this case it would be best if you chose the manual the HR person uses, but that would likely be hard to determine.

I use the Chicago Manual of Style, which says this for quoted poetry:

If more than one line is run into the text, the end of a line of poetry is marked by a solidus (/), with equal space on either side.

It should be clear enough for your original work of poesy.

  • 2
    But that's for situations like: if you quote poetry / without indenting lines / then nobody will see / that it rhymes. How would you use the solidus in the OP's format? Aug 18, 2016 at 19:51
  • 1
    @PeterShor I take your point and I'll edit the answer to reflect that it's a recommendation for quoting poetry. Does that a make a big difference in marking the end of line? Given a poetaster like the OP, is hiding the rhyme such a bad idea? (But I'm sure that as a poet, he's an excellent PHP coder.) Where would I put the solidus? I wouldn't, because I wouldn't submit a clerihew as the resume for a job I wanted.
    – deadrat
    Aug 18, 2016 at 20:46

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