Apparently, multiple colons are simply ignored when executing Ex commands. For example,

:set number!
:::set number!
: :  :set number!

all toggle line numbers. Is this really a consolidated rule? Where is it documentated? I tried :helpgrep :: and :help :: but did not find anything relevant.

I came to this question after many times having copied Ex commands such as :set number! and pasted to Vim's command line with :CTRL+R*, so that the resulting command line had a double colon.

1 Answer 1


Yes, the leading colons and blanks are ignored. It is documented in the Command Line Parsing section of the POSIX specification of Ex.

Command-line parsing shall be done in the following steps. For each step, characters already evaluated shall be ignored; that is, the phrase "leading character" refers to the next character that has not yet been evaluated.

  1. Leading <colon> characters shall be skipped.

  2. Leading <blank> characters shall be skipped.

Also, down below the informative section reiterates it:

Historically, ex permitted a single extra <colon> as a leading command character; for example, :g/pattern/:p was a valid command. POSIX.1-2017 generalizes this to require that any number of leading <colon> characters be stripped.

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