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Format Paragraphs to 80 Characters with Vim (No Plugins Needed)


When using the built-in gaqp motion and a custom mapping you can create hard line breaks at a custom text width.

Quick Jump: Demo Video

I’ve technically written over a million words of Markdown between blog posts, documentation and course notes.

One thing that I do all the time is format Markdown paragraphs to 80 characters. Vim lets us do that by default with the gqap motion. We can do it 1 on paragraph or any selection of text. You can also hook it up to a custom mapping to make this process easier.

Demo Video


" Format paragraph (selected or not) to 80 character lines.
nnoremap <Leader>g gqap
xnoremap <Leader>g gqa


  • 0:08 – Limiting the width of a line is useful
  • 0:53 – Demo’ing the behavior that we’re going to get
  • 1:16 – Why not do this automatically on save? Well…
  • 3:16 – Checking out the mappings in my vimrc and going over gq motions
  • 5:58 – Looking at gq’s help menu and adjusting the text width if you want
  • 7:24 – Investigating gqap in Vim’s help menu

What’s your favorite gq motion? Let me know below.

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