Feb 28, 2022 2 min read

How to echo a New Line in Bash Shell Scripts

Table of Contents

The echo command automatically adds a new line at the end. That's cool.

But what if you want to display just an empty new line? Or if you want to output something that contains a new line?

The good news is that, echo lets you use the newline character \n to print a new line within the same output line if you use the -e option:

echo -e "Name\nAddress\nPhone Number"

If you run the above command, you'll get this output:

Phone Number

That's nice, right? Let's have a more detailed look into it.

A newline is a term we use to specify that the current line has ended and the text will continue from the line below the current one. In most UNIX-like systems, \n is used to specify a newline. It is referred to as newline character.

The echo command, by default, disables the interpretation of backslash escapes. So if you try to display a newline using the '\n' escape sequence, you will notice a problem.

$ echo Hello\nworld

$ echo 'Hello\nworld'

Enclosing text in single quotes as a string literal does not work either.

That was not an expected output. To actually print a new-line, you can use the '-e' flag to tell the echo command that you want to enable the interpretation of backslash escapes.

$ echo -e 'Hello\nworld'

Nice, that's what you are looking for.

Let me some other ways to display the newline character.

echo a variable containing new line

You can store a string in a bash variable and then echo it using the '-e' flag.

$ str="Hello\nworld"

$ echo -e $str

Use the '$' character instead of -e flag

The dollar symbol, '$' is called the "expansion" character in bash. This is the character that I used in the earlier example to refer to a variable's value in shell.

If you look closely at the snippet below, you will realize that the expansion character, in this case, acts to hold a temporary value.

$ echo Hello$'\n'world

Or, you can use the whole string as a 'temporary variable':

$ echo $'Hello\nworld'

I would prefer to use the -e flag, though.

echo your echo to print something with new line

When you echo a piece of text, the echo command will automatically add a newline (and here is how you can prevent it) to the end of your text.

This means that you can chain multiple echo commands together to cause a newline.

$ echo Hello; echo world

Use printf to print newline in Bash shell

printf is another command line tool that essentially prints text to the terminal, but it also allows you to format your text.

The usage is very simple and similar to echo but a bit more reliable and consistent.

$ printf 'Hello\nworld\n'

As expected, you have a newline without using any flags.


Personally, I would prefer sticking with the -e flag or go for the printf command for displaying the new lines in output. I recommend you to do the same but feel free to experiment.

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