A black Enter key with a glowing white outline on a blue background

The Enter key can mean several things based on context. It can produce a line feed and carriage return, or it can submit a form or text field. With Shift+Enter, you can often toggle between those two modes with ease. Here’s why—and how to use it.

Line Feed vs. Submit

If a web form or application defaults to submitting a text field when you hit Enter, then pressing Shift+Enter will usually let you create a line feed (moving the cursor to a new line) without submitting. That way, you can create multiple-line messages.

For example, on the Twitter website, you can use Shift+Enter to make a multi-line tweet. When you’re done, press Enter by itself, and your tweet will be sent.

An example of a multi-line tweet on the Twitter website.

The same thing works for apps such as Discord, Slack, and Teams. You can impress your friends by composing multi-line masterpieces, huge multi-paragraph diatribes, or whatever fits your fancy with Shift+Enter. Then when you’re ready to send, just hit plain old Enter.

Interestingly, the reverse is often true. If the default behavior for an app or website is to create a line feed when you press Enter, then pressing Shift+Enter usually will submit the text field or form, similar to clicking a “Submit” button (Ctrl+Enter often does this as well). That way, you can quickly submit a form without having to move your hand away from the keyboard to click a “Submit” button with your mouse.

The reason why this behavior exists is due to a historical quirk: The Enter and Return keys originated in two different environments (submitting data on computers vs. creating a carriage return on electric typewriters), but they are often used interchangeably depending on the software. Early on, IBM developed a way to combine both functions into one key (labeled “Enter”) that could be toggled by using the Shift key. The standard stuck and has been adopted by many operating systems and applications ever since.

It’s Handy in Microsoft Word Too

In Microsoft Word, pressing Shift+Enter allows you to enter a plain line feed instead of a paragraph break, which can be useful if you’re doing special formatting on a document. We wouldn’t be surprised if Shift+Enter unlocks hidden functionality in other apps as well. Let us know if you find out!

RELATED: What Does Shift+Enter Do in Word?

Profile Photo for Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is a former Associate Editor for How-To Geek. Now, he is an AI and Machine Learning Reporter for Ars Technica. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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