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33.4.5 Specifying Numeric Arguments

digit-argument (M-0, M-1, … M--)

Add this digit to the argument already accumulating, or start a new argument. M-- starts a negative argument.

universal-argument ()

This is another way to specify an argument. If this command is followed by one or more digits, optionally with a leading minus sign, those digits define the argument. If the command is followed by digits, executing universal-argument again ends the numeric argument, but is otherwise ignored. As a special case, if this command is immediately followed by a character that is neither a digit nor minus sign, the argument count for the next command is multiplied by four. The argument count is initially one, so executing this function the first time makes the argument count four, a second time makes the argument count sixteen, and so on. By default, this is not bound to a key.