The let* expression

The next line of the forward-paragraph function begins a let* expression (see let* introduced), in which Emacs binds a total of seven variables: opoint, fill-prefix-regexp, parstart, parsep, sp-parstart, start, and found-start. The first part of the let* expression looks like below:

(let* ((opoint (point))
        (and fill-prefix (not (equal fill-prefix ""))
             (not paragraph-ignore-fill-prefix)
             (regexp-quote fill-prefix)))
       ;; Remove ^ from paragraph-start and paragraph-sep if they are there.
       ;; These regexps shouldn't be anchored, because we look for them
       ;; starting at the left-margin.  This allows paragraph commands to
       ;; work normally with indented text.
       ;; This hack will not find problem cases like "whatever\\|^something".
       (parstart (if (and (not (equal "" paragraph-start))
                          (equal ?^ (aref paragraph-start 0)))
                     (substring paragraph-start 1)
       (parsep (if (and (not (equal "" paragraph-separate))
                        (equal ?^ (aref paragraph-separate 0)))
                   (substring paragraph-separate 1)
        (if fill-prefix-regexp
            (concat parsep "\\|"
                    fill-prefix-regexp "[ \t]*$")
       ;; This is used for searching.
       (sp-parstart (concat "^[ \t]*\\(?:" parstart "\\|" parsep "\\)"))
       start found-start)

The variable parsep appears twice, first, to remove instances of ‘^’, and second, to handle fill prefixes.

The variable opoint is just the value of point. As you can guess, it is used in a constrain-to-field expression, just as in forward-sentence.

The variable fill-prefix-regexp is set to the value returned by evaluating the following list:

(and fill-prefix
     (not (equal fill-prefix ""))
     (not paragraph-ignore-fill-prefix)
     (regexp-quote fill-prefix))

This is an expression whose first element is the and special form.

As we learned earlier (see The kill-new function), the and special form evaluates each of its arguments until one of the arguments returns a value of nil, in which case the and expression returns nil; however, if none of the arguments returns a value of nil, the value resulting from evaluating the last argument is returned. (Since such a value is not nil, it is considered true in Lisp.) In other words, an and expression returns a true value only if all its arguments are true.

In this case, the variable fill-prefix-regexp is bound to a non-nil value only if the following four expressions produce a true (i.e., a non-nil) value when they are evaluated; otherwise, fill-prefix-regexp is bound to nil.


When this variable is evaluated, the value of the fill prefix, if any, is returned. If there is no fill prefix, this variable returns nil.

(not (equal fill-prefix "")

This expression checks whether an existing fill prefix is an empty string, that is, a string with no characters in it. An empty string is not a useful fill prefix.

(not paragraph-ignore-fill-prefix)

This expression returns nil if the variable paragraph-ignore-fill-prefix has been turned on by being set to a true value such as t.

(regexp-quote fill-prefix)

This is the last argument to the and special form. If all the arguments to the and are true, the value resulting from evaluating this expression will be returned by the and expression and bound to the variable fill-prefix-regexp,

The result of evaluating this and expression successfully is that fill-prefix-regexp will be bound to the value of fill-prefix as modified by the regexp-quote function. What regexp-quote does is read a string and return a regular expression that will exactly match the string and match nothing else. This means that fill-prefix-regexp will be set to a value that will exactly match the fill prefix if the fill prefix exists. Otherwise, the variable will be set to nil.

The next two local variables in the let* expression are designed to remove instances of ‘^’ from parstart and parsep, the local variables which indicate the paragraph start and the paragraph separator. The next expression sets parsep again. That is to handle fill prefixes.

This is the setting that requires the definition call let* rather than let. The true-or-false-test for the if depends on whether the variable fill-prefix-regexp evaluates to nil or some other value.

If fill-prefix-regexp does not have a value, Emacs evaluates the else-part of the if expression and binds parsep to its local value. (parsep is a regular expression that matches what separates paragraphs.)

But if fill-prefix-regexp does have a value, Emacs evaluates the then-part of the if expression and binds parsep to a regular expression that includes the fill-prefix-regexp as part of the pattern.

Specifically, parsep is set to the original value of the paragraph separate regular expression concatenated with an alternative expression that consists of the fill-prefix-regexp followed by optional whitespace to the end of the line. The whitespace is defined by "[ \t]*$".) The ‘\\|’ defines this portion of the regexp as an alternative to parsep.

According to a comment in the code, the next local variable, sp-parstart, is used for searching, and then the final two, start and found-start, are set to nil.

Now we get into the body of the let*. The first part of the body of the let* deals with the case when the function is given a negative argument and is therefore moving backwards. We will skip this section.