Keep notes short and atomic with a word-limit

The idea would be to emulate the limits of an index card to keep notes short and atomic.

A (hard) word-limit or (soft) count-down could be enabled for notes in specific folders (/Atoms) or tags (#atom).


Maybe could be done in CSS so only so many words were displayed?

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I had not considered CSS as an option, thank you!

Maybe it’s a combination of JS and CSS because I would love to see how many words I have left.

Until then I periodically look at the word-count bottom-right and check if it’s above “150” :slight_smile:

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You’re asking to have an artificial limiter on your note length. So, let’s say you set the limit at 100 words, then any note you want to compose will be limited to 100 words. But that is an arbitrary number, because a 10-word note can be atomic, but a 10-word note can also not be atomic. The same goes for a 200 word note.

In other words, setting an arbitrarily “low” number does not necessarily achieve your objective of atomicity, AND it is distracting because you’ll be keeping an eye (physically or mentally) on that word counter.

It would be better to revisit the concept of atomicity, and create your atomic notes in a more natural way. You’ll be able to handle your zettel in a better, more satisfying manner, IMHO.


The concept of a limit is closer to a Luhmannesque index card than is an infinitely extensible document though.

An “infinitely extensible document” has nothing to do with a Luhmanneque system of atomic zettel, so you are not comparing like for like.

Someone who needs an artificial word limiter has not understood the concept of atomicity à la Luhmann, nor its function.

Maybe, but Luhmann kept to index cards and emphasised few but well formed sentences.

Having a limit would be a way of enforcing the same discipline as an index card.

Luhmann’s index cards were short, and, apart from the fact that there was one available, he certainly did not need a word limiter, neither for his index cards nor for his zettel.

Even if the word limiter artefact would have been available, he would not have need one for one simple reason: he understood the concept of atomicity. I believe it is not an exaggeration to state that.

Wasn’t the size of an index card a physical word limiter?
Probably after years of using the system, he might have not “needed” a word limiter, but this is purely speculative on your part as the fact remains that the format of the cards worked in effect as such.

Furthermore, isn’t the point of the ZK to make thinking easier? And if one is struggling with making ideas concise, is it not fair to look for tools that would “force” one into a more effective habit?
Isn’t the whole spirit of the ZK, the reason it works, to be an external physical system that streamlines or carries the burdens that we normally thrust upon our brain?

I think an artificial word limit is a fantastic idea, because even though it is not “necessary,” it is for sure a very helpful tool to transform the theory of atomicity into its practice.

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I mean just write whatever you want and refactor it to smaller notes later? Seems more practical.

For those attempting to follow Luhmann, iirc he wrote his cards in the evening. Presumably did his reading at a variety of times. But what he read and his thoughts about it were current when he wrote his cards. So, for those whose memory might fail, your refactoring might be closest to his actual system. But soon after, not long delayed. And fits better maybe with digital systems using quotes and highlighting.

There is a plugin that does this, it’s called PaperCut.

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