I'm trying to set a custom breakat for plain text files. Aiming for a very small set of characters -- just hyphens, slashes, and whitespace. That means I need to add tabs, which I do by setting breakat+=^I. (Right?)

At first, I didn't understand how control characters worked, and appended ^ I to my breakat value. Naturally, as a result, my files started breaking at capital I's. -_-'

So then I went digging, and found this: <C-v> followed by any control key should produce the literal control character. Great! Except it seems to work on all the control characters I've tried except <C-i> (which prints a regular tab, rather than ^I with the special/bolded syntax highlighting I see for other literal control characters). What gives?

(I thought maybe it was because various plugins map <C-i> to lots of things, so I moved my "bundle" folder elsewhere, reloaded vim, and tried again! Still no luck.)

If it helps/matters, I'm running gVim 7.4 on Windows. I also found this, but <C-q><C-i> doesn't do it, either.

2 Answers 2


You can do it like this:

let &breakat = "-/ \t"

set syntax is weird, you probably want to avoid it if possible. Fortunately set option=... is equivalent to let &option = ..., and let syntax is nicer. In particular let allows you to use full expressions as values, such as the above.

On a related topic, setlocal option=... is equivalent to let &l:option = ....

  • Brilliant; that totally did it! Do you do this for all settings in your .vimrc?
    – Ryan Lue
    Jun 26, 2015 at 6:12
  • @RyanLue This trick is mostly useful for string-valued options, or when saving / restoring options in scripts. I don't bother with it otherwise.
    – lcd047
    Jun 26, 2015 at 6:19

I'm running gVim 7.4 on Windows.

From :help i_CTRL-V:

Note: When CTRL-V is mapped (e.g., to paste text) you can often use CTRL-Q instead i_CTRL-Q.

mswin.vim maps <C-v> to paste text.

That being said, using \t as suggested by lcd047 is probably better here, since it's more readable and easier to edit.

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