I'm trying to get emacs to understand ♥ as punctuation.
(modify-syntax-entry ?♥ "." text-mode-syntax-table)

I'm not sure what the issue is. (That is a unicode heart.)
(modify-syntax-entry ?\u2665 "." text-mode-syntax-table)

For purposes of recognizing that a new sentence starts after "Hi!♥"

How can I troubleshoot this?


Lorem impsum dolor.♥ Sit amet.|

(where the pipe indicates the starting cursor position.)
Hitting M-a moves the cursor to the left of "Lorem".

Lorem impsum dolor♥. Sit amet.|

Hitting M-a moves the cursor to the left of "Sit".

I want both cases for it to move to the left of "Sit". In some modes.

  • You say nothing about the symptoms of the problem. Provide a recipe or description that shows what the problem is.
    – Drew
    Aug 11, 2020 at 18:56
  • Why has the O.P. used three (3) spaces following the . in the NEWENTRY argument?
    – lawlist
    Aug 11, 2020 at 21:29
  • @lawlist: no idea why, but it does not seem to make any (?) difference - when I look at the character with C-u C-x = it says that the syntax is "punctuation", so the code works. It's not clear why the OP thinks that there is a problem.
    – NickD
    Aug 11, 2020 at 22:18
  • I removed the extra spaces, thank you for that. I added examples of what doesn't work. I was unaware of C-x C-x =, which was one of the troubleshooting features I was fishing for by posting this question, but I also get "punctuation" so I don't know why it doesn't seem to be recognized as such.
    – Sandra
    Aug 12, 2020 at 6:54

1 Answer 1


Sentence movement functions use the regexp returned by the (sentence-end) function to find the end of a sentence. The (sentence-end) function returns the value of the sentence-end variable if it is not nil. (The function and variable share the same name).

You can modify the value of the sentence-end variable to any regexp you want. In order to maintain all other functionallity provided by the defaults for sentence movement, I recommend you set the value of sentence-end to be a regexp matching either ♥ or the default return value of the (sentence-end) function.

Below is a function that sets the local value of the sentence-end variable as described.

(defun my-setup-sentence-end ()
   "Modify the local value of the `sentence-end'
variable to be a regexp matching either ♥ or the default
regexp returned by the `sentence-end' function."
    (rx (or "♥" (eval (let ((sentence-end nil)) (sentence-end)))))))

Once you have this function you can add it as a hook to any mode you would like.

;; For example, you can add this behavior to `text-mode' like so
(add-hook 'text-mode-hook 'my-setup-sentence-end)

Now you can use (forward-sentence), (backward-sentence) and other text movemnt functions to navigate to ♥ characters. This regexp may not fit your exact use case, but should provide the basic understanding for you to create your own.

Take a look at the paragraph.el source file for more information about the modification of sentence-end.

  • Looking at evaluation of (sentence-end), it currently returns "\\([.?!…‽][]\"'”’)}]*\\($\\|[  ]\\)\\|[。.?!]+\\)[   ]*" and I'm not sure how the syntax-table factors into that. So weird! I think I can find a work-around to my problem by modifying sentence-end like you suggest.
    – Sandra
    Aug 12, 2020 at 6:59
  • @Sandra The solution will depend on what you want from the heart character, making emacs know that it's punctuation doesn't mean it will use it as a sentence delimiter and vice versa. What is the use case you're building for? Aug 12, 2020 at 15:27
  • @Sandra Interesting, it looks like that package revolves mainly around the tools from paragraph.el, did this function work in conjunction with that? Aug 13, 2020 at 14:11

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