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31.4.2 Moving in the Parenthesis Structure

The Emacs commands for handling parenthetical groupings see nothing except parentheses (or whatever characters must balance in the language you are working with), and the escape characters that might be used to quote those. They are mainly intended for editing programs, but can be useful for editing any text that has parentheses. They are sometimes called “list” commands because in Lisp these groupings are lists.


Move forward over a parenthetical group (forward-list).


Move backward over a parenthetical group (backward-list).


Move up in parenthesis structure (backward-up-list).


Move down in parenthesis structure (down-list).

The “list” commands C-M-n (forward-list) and C-M-p (backward-list) move over one (or n) parenthetical groupings, skipping blithely over any amount of text that doesn't include meaningful parentheses (symbols, strings, etc.).

C-M-n and C-M-p try to stay at the same level in the parenthesis structure. To move up one (or n) levels, use C-M-u (backward-up-list). C-M-u moves backward up past one unmatched opening delimiter. A positive argument serves as a repeat count; a negative argument reverses the direction of motion, so that the command moves forward and up one or more levels.

To move down in the parenthesis structure, use C-M-d (down-list). In Lisp mode, where ‘(’ is the only opening delimiter, this is nearly the same as searching for a ‘(’. An argument specifies the number of levels to go down.

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