I use noweb references inside sh code blocks, for example:

#+begin_src sh
  echo "test"
  echo "test"

But this causes syntax highlighting to be broken because << gets interpreted as here document by the sh syntax highlighter and rest of the document (line 3 for the example above) becomes non-highlighted.

How can I fix this?

  • You could try the code from emacs.stackexchange.com/questions/63306/… and set (setq org-babel-default-header-args (cons '(:emph . "'((\"<<\" \">>\" 'hi-red-b))") (assq-delete-all :emph org-babel-default-header-args))) file-locally in the org files where you need it or even in your init file if you really want that. Save the code in some file within your load-path, e.g., org+-emph.el and byte-compile it. Add (require 'org+-emph) to your init file.
    – Tobias
    Commented Apr 1, 2021 at 2:58
  • Did you try my suggestion? If not, what was the problem?
    – Tobias
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 4:21
  • @Tobias Thanks for the suggestion! Sorry for not being able to get back earlier. I tried your solution but it completely broke the syntax highlighting in the src blocks. It seems to be working (although with some little problems) if I write the src block manually or paste it from somewhere else, but right after editing it with C-c ' the colors gets mixed up. OK, right now I realized the problem is the 2-space indentation that org automatically applies after doing C-c ', your package does not account for that I guess.
    – isamert
    Commented Apr 10, 2021 at 14:07
  • 1
    Please use package org-src-emph. See the installation guide and the usage examples there. The code has some fix that hopefully makes editing with C-c ' fully functional. It is clear that the Noweb references may interfere with the source code in the special edit buffer. I had to rename the package to comply with the guidelines of Melpa. If the package is stable enough we could propose it for Melpa. Please test.
    – Tobias
    Commented Apr 11, 2021 at 23:51
  • @Tobias although I am not the author of this question, I had the same problem and I tried your package. It solved the problem! Thanks for your work!
    – PsyFish
    Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 7:51

2 Answers 2


You can define the delimiters babel use for noweb references, by setting org-babel-noweb-wrap-start and org-babel-noweb-wrap-start.

For instance, in org mode document where I dabble in bash, I insert at the bottom of the file:

* COMMENT Local Variables
# Local Variables:
# org-babel-noweb-wrap-start: "«"
# org-babel-noweb-wrap-end: "»"
# End:

The syntax to refer to noweb now is:

#+begin_src sh :noweb yes

I like to use « and » characters, because they are very similar to << and >>, but you can choose other combination.

The drawback of this solution : it changes for the whole buffer, not only a single block. Otherwise, pretty great all around.


I liked @Dreammm's idea of using the « and » characters but didn't like having to declare file local variables.

I also did not want to always use « and ».

I just overwrote the org-babel-noweb-wrap function so now I can use either << and >> or « and ».

(defun org-babel-noweb-wrap (&optional regexp)
  "Return regexp matching a Noweb reference.

Match any reference, or only those matching REGEXP, if non-nil.

When matching, reference is stored in match group 1."
   `(and (or "<<" "«")
            (not (or " " "\t" "\n"))
            (? (*? any) (not (or " " "\t" "\n"))))
           (or ">>" "»"))))

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