Bewildering Stories discusses...
Here are the first two lines from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” (1845):
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore
Here are the same lines in 21st-century “hiccup” style:
Once upon a
dreary, while I
pondered, weak and
Over many a
Now, which will readers prefer to read? Or, putting it practically, how much hiccupping can they read without losing their place?
Why is it “hiccuping”? Because the line breaks force a pause. And a pause carries emphasis. In the 12 lines, what words or particles are emphasized? “a” (twice), “and” (twice), “of” and both parts of the hyphenated word “forgotten.” More than half of the spaced-out style emphasizes function words. So much for the meaning words, then; they don’t seem to be important.
Remember Bewildering Stories’ byword: “Line breaks do not a poem make.” That is, line breaks alone can’t turn flash fiction or an essay into poetry. But the byword has two corollaries: “Erratic line breaks sure can unmake a poem” and “Extra white space has no content.”
Poets, please color within the lines!
What are the “lines”? Sentences, phrases or grammatical thought groups. As we like to say, they‘ll “keep the readers on the page with you,”