I'm happily using the verse environment to typeset French poetry. However, I'm unsatisfied with the behavior of long-line breaks (when the verse is too long to fit on the page).

The verse behavior is to do: 

Most of verses are short
here is another
foo bar bar foo long things will at one moment
      break on another line
another short

What French typesetting convention requires is: 

Most of verses are short
here is another
foo bar bar foo long things will at one moment
                          [break on another line
another short

It's to say long line remainder part right-aligned, starting with an opening bracket, while the normal lines are still left aligned.

Any ideas on how to change this behavior?

  • 1
    a similar problem was addressed in appendix d ("dirty tricks") in the texbook. it's in section 7 (p.392ff), "paragraph maneuvers", and it was devised to handle long entries in the key index of math reviews. it redefines spaces so that, on running out of space at the end of a line, the line is broken automatically, with the beginning flush left, and the end flush right. it's plain tex of course, but someone with better plain-to-latex skills than i can certainly adapt it. @Yiannis' answer works, but could be more automatic. i'd also suggest `\obeylines' to make input more natural. Dec 24, 2011 at 15:32
  • Thanks for the pointer Barbara. I read the book's part. Unfortunately, it's far beyond my understanding of LaTeX… Dec 26, 2011 at 14:23

3 Answers 3


This can be set using TeX's paragraph settings as follows:

\leftskip=0pt plus 1fil
This is a short poem line to see\\
what is this?


The image below shows the result.

enter image description here

To enter the break and have an automatic "[" inserted use the following short definition:


You can use it as follows:

This is a short poem line to see\c[ 
what is this?


A different method closer to what the OP wants:

\def\X{\rightskip0pt \leftskip=0pt \parfillskip=0pt plus 1.0fil}
\rightskip0pt plus 1pt
\leftskip=0pt plus 2fill
\parfillskip=0pt  [#1{\par}\X}


Another short line to test what is happening \B this is a  test

Some more test to just see what is happening here\B Testing another stanza

Testing etc 

Ultimately the best method might be the one commented by Barbara, where one makes the space character active, but that is a job for after Christmas! The second method works well, but one has to be careful with the \hsize to get it to the right value to make the poems look right.

  • It seems the OP doesn't want the first line ragged right, even in a verse environment with manual line breaks.
    – lockstep
    Dec 24, 2011 at 14:09
  • @lockstep First line is not a real ragged right line, if it is a full line. See the second example based on lipsum. I asked for a fuller example with a full stanza to understand better, what the OP needs. If all stanzas are two lines long then the \def\c[ can be modified to provide simply an \hfil[.
    – yannisl
    Dec 24, 2011 at 14:17
  • 2
    @YiannisLazarides : Thanks :) I tried to be more clear/accurate in the question. Dec 24, 2011 at 14:52
  • If your document isn't already that large you may consider using reledmac. See p. 50 of reledmac.pdf: "9.6 Hanging symbol It is possible to insert a symbol in each line of hanging verse, as in French typography; for example, the opening bracket [. To insert it in reledmac, use macro \sethangingsymbol{⟨h⟩} with this code. In the example of French typography, do \sethangingsymbol{[\,} You can also use it to force hanging verse to be flush right: \sethangingsymbol{\protect\hfill}" Dec 25, 2016 at 13:40

If you want the broken part of the line on the right side of the page, you can also change the \vindent length to your preferred width to make it look right-aligned. E.g.

\setlength{\vindent}{0.6\textwidth}   % indent percent of page width

    Some really really reallyreallyreally really really really really long line

The package gmverse does the job. You even have the bracket option with squarebr, everything is explained here : How to Left-align first line in a paragraph, right-align others

  • Welcome to the website of TeX.SE users. Could you please propose your own solution?
    – Sebastiano
    Apr 25, 2020 at 21:08

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