Emacs and I agree on many things. That's good. However, there is one thing we disagree on – the default value for fill-column for different major modes. In order to alleviate this, I added the following to my init file:

(let ((fill-column-mode-alist '((org-mode . 80)
                                (markdown-mode . 80)
                                (tex-mode . 80)
                                (python-mode . 79))))
  (defun modify-fill-column-maybe ()
    "Call `set-fill-column' with a value according to the major mode."
    (let ((value (assoc major-mode
      (when value
        (set-fill-column (cdr value))))))

(add-hook 'after-change-major-mode-hook #'modify-fill-column-maybe)

My question is whether there is something fundamentally wrong with my approach. Any pitfalls that I am overlooking? Is there maybe a built-in functionality for this that I am not aware of?

1 Answer 1


I don't think there's anything wrong with what you're doing. If it works I don't see any obvious pitfalls.

That said, it's not the usual way to apply mode-specific settings. This is usually done with a mode-hook. For example, I have the following in my init:

(defun my-org-src-mode-hook ()
  (setq fill-column 65)
  (auto-fill-mode t))

(add-hook 'org-src-mode-hook #'my-org-src-mode-hook)

If the only thing you're tweaking for each mode is the fill-column value, your way is probably more convenient. But if you've got other mode-specific config, it may be more convenient to organize it by mode (i.e., with mode hooks), rather than by feature.

  • Thank you. For some reason I have opted to organize things, as you say, by feature. For example, In my use-package declaration for flyspell, I have :hook ((org-mode markdown-mode TeX-mode) . flyspell-mode). Maybe I should consider doing things the other way around!
    – d125q
    Oct 24, 2018 at 15:18
  • Ha! I didn't know use-package had a :hook argument, that's handy.
    – Tyler
    Oct 24, 2018 at 17:56
  • 1
    @Tyler: please add a # before 'my-org-src-mode-hook so the compiler knows it is a function. Oct 25, 2018 at 15:08
  • 1
    @DamienCassou ok. I understand why, but the official docs don't cover this, and the #' syntax differs from the examples of add-hook in the manuals. It would be helpful if the official Emacs manual explicitly covered this. The only mention of #' is in relation to anonymous functions.
    – Tyler
    Oct 25, 2018 at 16:24
  • 1
    @alper you should be defining my-latex-mode-hook, and then adding it to LaTeX-mode-hook via (add-hook 'LaTeX-mode-hook #'my-latex-mode-hook)
    – Tyler
    Jan 6, 2022 at 15:16

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