Bye Bye Backtick: Natural Line Continuations in PowerShell


PowerShell is a language which lends itself to lengthy lines of code. Recommended Best Practice (RBP) is that functions and cmdlets along with their parameters be named descriptively and without abbreviation. It is also RBP to not use aliases for them in your code. Additionally, RBP is to use full names for variables in Pascal Case or Camel Case. The point of this practice is to make the code read more like a story and less like a cheap furniture construction manual. As far as RBP’s go, these I whole heartedly agree with. In addition to the verbosity of keywords, combining multiple commands in a pipeline will also greatly increase the number of characters per line.

PowerShell offers several ways to break up your lengthy lines into multiple shorter lines. Some of these are well known and others not so much. One of them many PowerShell users will encounter very early and it is the worst option. Most often this is the first method for multi-line commands a PowerShell novice learns and sometimes it is the only one. Thus, this worst possible method has ingrained itself into the annals of PowerShell history and permeates like a cancer.

I’m talking, here, about the backtick (or backquote, or grave accent). You know, this hard to see character:


Line continuation, word wrapping, line wrapping, and line breaking are all terms used to describe the process of splitting a single command across multiple line. I prefer the term Line Continuation because I have only seen it used in the context of programming and not in typesetting or other crafts.

In this blog post I will cover why line length matters, why we should avoid the backtick for line continuations, and various alternative methods and strategies for reducing line length and splitting lines of code. This post should be suitable for new and experienced PowerShell users. Some terminology may be foreign to new users. The PowerShell major versions targeted by this post are 5 & 6. The methods described in this post may work in later versions or earlier versions but have not been tested or verified in those versions.