I have a bunch of .text files, most of which end with the standard nl.

A couple don't have any terminator at end. The last physical byte is (generally) an alphameric character.

I was using cat *.text >| /tmp/joined.text, but then noticed a couple of places in joined.text where the first line of a file appeared at the end of the last line of a previous file. Inspecting the previous file, I saw there wasn't a line terminator -- concatenation explained.

That raised the question, what's the easiest way to concatenate, sticking in the missing newline? What about these options?

  1. A solution that might effectively add a blank line to some input files. For me, that's not a problem as the processing of joined.text can handle it.
  2. A solution that adds the cr/fl only to files that do not already end that way.
  • 1
    Safest is to add the missing newline e.g. unix.stackexchange.com/questions/31947/… Totally unsafe is leaving those broken files around then wondering why a shell while is skipping those broken last lines.
    – thrig
    Feb 16, 2017 at 19:25
  • Do you really want a cr/lf or do you want the normal, standard \n? On *nix systems, lines end with a single \n. The \r\n is a Windows thing. And where do you want this? At the end of each line? The end of the file?
    – terdon
    Feb 16, 2017 at 19:45
  • @thrig But which specific files? In other words, what's a good way to automatically identify them (instead of opening each and every candidate)? And if another one gets accidentally generated, then an automated method would be extra nice! Feb 16, 2017 at 19:46
  • @terdon Thanks for the catch. My windows heritage shows... The nl goes only at the end of a file that doesn't have one. Each lines in a multi-line file ends with nl, except for the last. Probably because some editor dropped it. Feb 16, 2017 at 19:48
  • @terdon that idea would work for Option 1, however the way I read the find man, '%s\n' would append the size of the file. Probably want just '\n'? Feb 16, 2017 at 19:55

5 Answers 5


Another command that can add newlines if needed is awk, so:

awk 1 ./*.txt

The 1 here is the simplest way to get a true condition in awk, which works for this purpose since awk default action on true conditions is to print the input lines.

  • 1
    Hi @muru, can u explain a bit what does "awk 1" mean?
    – Jon
    Jul 3, 2018 at 1:46
  • 5
    @Jon awk's default action on true conditions is to print the input lines, and 1 is the simplest true condition. It's shorthand for awk '{print}'
    – muru
    Jul 3, 2018 at 1:52

With some cut implementations like GNU cut, you can do:

cut -b 1- ./*.text > output

as it will add the missing newline if missing.


This handy Perl one-liner can do the job of adding the missing newline only if not already there:

perl -lpe '' ./*.text > output

You could use this:

grep -h "" ./*.txt

-h will remove the filename printout

  • best answer!!!!
    – SScholl
    Apr 28, 2022 at 6:16
  • best answer by far... cannot be done in a simpler way (may to complete the answer should add the "> new_file.txt" string at the end. Dec 27, 2022 at 11:25

The first approach that comes to mind is to loop over the files and just print their contents with an appended newline:

for f in *text; do
    printf '%s\n' "$(cat < "$f")"
done > /tmp/joined.text

The $() will strip any already existing newline characters so this will result in just one \n at the end of each file.

  • Don't want to strip existing NLs -- that would just run all the lines together, compounding my problem. What I hear you telling me is for Option 1, just loop through all the files, printing each one then a NL. I'm noobie surprised that isn't something in an existing utility to force a new line when necessary so lines don't run together. Feb 16, 2017 at 20:03
  • @HiTechHiTouch this will both remove any existing \n and add one. The result will always be one (and only one) \n at the end of each file. The %s is a printf thing, it just means "string". See here. You are confusing it with the [ -s file ] which is the size of the file. This does both option 1 and option 2. As for a utility, no there isn't because any program that writes to a file always adds a newline. If there isn't one, that is almost always because something broke and the file is corrupted.
    – terdon
    Feb 16, 2017 at 21:04
  • 1
    Note that it adds an empty line for empty files (or files that can't be opened for reading). In shells other than zsh, it will choke on NUL characters. It should probably also be noted that it loads the whole files in memory. Jan 30, 2018 at 9:49

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