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22.1.3.5 Printing Lists and Conses

Wherever possible, list notation is preferred over dot notation. Therefore the following algorithm is used to print a *cons* x:

- 1. A
*left-parenthesis* is printed. -
- 2. The
*car* of x is printed. -
- 3. If the
*cdr* of x is itself a *cons*, it is made to be the current *cons* (i.e., x becomes that *cons*), a *space* is printed, and step 2 is re-entered. -
- 4. If the
*cdr* of x is not *null*, a *space*, a *dot*, a *space*, and the *cdr* of x are printed. -
- 5. A
*right-parenthesis* is printed.

Actually, the above algorithm is only used when ***print-pretty*** is *false*. When ***print-pretty*** is *true* (or when **pprint** is used), additional *whitespace*[1] may replace the use of a single *space*, and a more elaborate algorithm with similar goals but more presentational flexibility is used; see Section 22.1.2 (Printer Dispatching).

Although the two expressions below are equivalent, and the reader accepts either one and produces the same *cons*, the printer always prints such a *cons* in the second form.

(a . (b . ((c . (d . nil)) . (e . nil))))
(a b (c d) e)

The printing of *conses* is affected by ***print-level***, ***print-length***, and ***print-circle***.
Following are examples of printed representations of *lists*:

(a . b) ;A dotted pair of a and b
(a.b) ;A list of one element, the symbol named a.b
(a. b) ;A list of two elements a. and b
(a .b) ;A list of two elements a and .b
(a b . c) ;A dotted list of a and b with c at the end; two conses
.iot ;The symbol whose name is .iot
(. b) ;Invalid -- an error is signaled if an attempt is made to read
;this syntax.
(a .) ;Invalid -- an error is signaled.
(a .. b) ;Invalid -- an error is signaled.
(a . . b) ;Invalid -- an error is signaled.
(a b c ...) ;Invalid -- an error is signaled.
(a \. b) ;A list of three elements a, ., and b
(a |.| b) ;A list of three elements a, ., and b
(a \... b) ;A list of three elements a, ..., and b
(a |...| b) ;A list of three elements a, ..., and b

For information on how the *Lisp reader* parses *lists* and *conses*, see Section 2.4.1 (Left-Parenthesis).

The following X3J13 cleanup issue, *not part of the specification*, applies to this section:

*Copyright 1996-2005, @lisp. All rights reserved.*