This article explains how to add and remove hyphenation in a Word document, and how to work with the options you have in the hyphenation menu.
Why would I want to add hyphens to a document?
This issue doesn’t normally come up with standard documents where the text is in a smallish size and extends across the entire width of the page. In fact I hardly ever see it in the work I do, and was only reminded of it when a client had accidentally set automated hyphenation in part of his document that happened to contain long words. Where did all these hyphens come from, I wondered.
It is useful, however, if you are working with columns, say in a table, or for a newsletter you’re publishing, or some other part of a document where you want to have a narrow band of text running down the page. If you just put your text in your column and don’t justify it on the right hand side, you will end up with a very ragged look:
In fact, as you can see (marked by the arrow), one word is just too long for the line and splits at the last letter, something which doesn’t obey any of the standard rules of hyphenation (I bet this has happened in your tables – it has in my clients’).
Maybe we can neaten it up by applying Right Justification …
Oh no! In its effort to make everything tidy, Word has carefully inserted huge spaces between words (unlike someone typesetting properly on a computer or by hand, it doesn’t space out the letters in the words so much as just add massive spaces). And poor old Mr Long Word is still dangling a letter onto the next line.
This looks pretty horrible, doesn’t it. Adding automatic or manual hyphenation is the way forward.
How do I add automatic hyphenation to my Word document?
To work with the hyphenation options, we need to be in the Page Layout tab, and the Page Setup area, and there you’ll find Hyphenation (with a little pop-up box explaining it). This is the case in Word 2007 and Word 2010. In Word 2003, you need to select the following menus: Tools > Language > Hyphenation.
If you click on the arrow to the left of the word Hyphenation, you get a menu that looks like this:
You can choose here between None, Automatic and Manual, and then have some options, too. We’ll look at those options in a moment.
What happens if I add automatic hyphenation to my document?
If you highlight the text and then select Automatic from the Hyphenation menu, Word will automatically insert hyphens into the text to break the words in sensible, permitted places (there is a whole art to this which I will discuss another time. I’m not sure which exact rules Word follows, but a quick look shows that it’s pretty good). So if your text is right justified, you’ll get this:
You can see here that Word has hyphenated all of the longer words that previously caused those big gaps, and made the text an awful lot tidier.
You can do this on unjustified text, too:
but I personally think that this still looks a bit messy.
How do I remove automatic hyphenation?
To remove automatic hyphenation when you find it in a document and don’t want it, highlight the offending text and choose None from the Hyphenation menu in Page Layout > Page Setup:
All of the automatic hyphenation should disappear.
How do I use manual hyphenation in my document?
If you choose the manual hyphenation option, based on where your cursor is placed at the time you select this option, Word will give you a choice of where and whether to hyphenate your words:
(here we can see our unhyphenated text, with the cursor on “demonstrate”). Once you’ve clicked on Yes or No, it will hop along to the next word that’s a candidate for hyphenation.
Why shouldn’t I just hyphenate totally manually?
Of course, you can just look for gaps and manually type a hyphen in the middle of the word, and it will split over two lines. However, this is a concrete character that you’ve inserted into the word, and so if you change the wording in your text so that the offend-ing word no longer comes at the end of the line, you’ll retain the hyphen charac-ter and get artefacts like the ones you can see in this para-graph. Much better to automate the manual process, so to speak …
What are the hyphenation options?
If you click on the Hyphenation Options at the bottom of the Hyphenation dialogue box, you are given a few choices:
Working from the top …
- Automatically hyphenate document – does what it says on the tin
- Hyphenate words in CAPS – you may not want to split long acronyms, etc. – if not, then untick this box
- Hyphenation zone – this is the maximum space allowed between a word and the right hand margin. Increase this number and the hyphenation zone becomes wider – and you will have fewer hyphens. A lower number will give you more hyphens
- Limit consecutive hyphens to – allows you to prevent Word from hyphenating at the end of every line – best adjusted once you’ve set hyphenation and seen what it looks like
- Manual… – gives you another way to get to the Manual Hyphenation feature
In this article we’ve learned why we might want to apply automatic hyphenation to a document, how we do it, how to remove automatic hyphenation, and the options that are available in the hyphenation menu.
This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents. Do like and share as much as you can, and/or leave me a comment if this article has been useful to you.
Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word 2010, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!
Find all the short cuts here …
April 10, 2013 at 1:17 pm
Where do you stand on hyphens in general!? I tend to remove them from academic documents because (in my opinion) the prose should convey its meaning through correct syntax and punctuation, such as commas, semi-colons and colons, rather than relying on hyphens. I don’t think it matters so much in non-academic prose but it’s one of my bugbears, along with using “as” instead of “because”, in academic writing!
Liz at Libro
April 10, 2013 at 1:20 pm
Ah, there’s a whole other post on that to be done, isn’t there. I assume you mean the ones between words? I follow Oxford – just before the subject or object, not after – part-time work but working part time, and never with a -ly word beautifully full inboxes. And I am pretty sparing with them unless the sense demands it.
April 10, 2013 at 1:23 pm
I mean as you have used here, as a form of punctuation: “I assume you mean the ones between words? I follow Oxford – just before the subject or object, not after – [etc]”. I actually prefer parentheses to hyphens in examples like that or commas.
I used hyphens when two words form an adjective, like you do. But I have a feeling that I may be old fashioned about the other type of hyphen.
Liz at Libro
April 10, 2013 at 1:29 pm
Oh – as in dashes. Yes, I don’t like those in academic work. And I have to constantly change long to short to long when going between US and UK texts too …
April 10, 2013 at 1:29 pm
so what’s the UK/US rule there? (I don’t do much US stuff so am not familiar with it)
Liz at Libro
April 10, 2013 at 1:30 pm
US long, UK short, so the US ones fill the space between the words and the UK ones have a space each side.
June 30, 2013 at 10:26 am
I have noticed a new nasty feature in Word 2013. It prevents hyphenating across pages. Although the idea is OK, its realization is annoying. In details: if the last line of a page ends with hyphenated word, it is moved to the next page (instead just switching-off the hyphention for that word).
The effect is that pages has sometimes big gap at the end (missing 2-5 lines).
Does anybody know how to switch-off this feature?
Liz at Libro
June 30, 2013 at 10:31 am
That does sound annoying. Can you set manual hyphenation just for that line to switch this off? I’m not au fait with all the details of Word 2013 yet but someone else might know …
February 5, 2015 at 2:35 pm
Did you already find a solution for this problem?
February 5, 2015 at 2:56 pm
I’m not sure whether the solution I offered worked or not – are you having the same problem, and have you tried my suggestion?
February 24, 2014 at 1:23 am
Thank You! for Info.
August 30, 2014 at 8:24 pm
is there a shortcut or alt code or macro that will hyphenate a selected series of words? For example, something that would change point of contact to point-of-contact? Thanks!!
Liz at Libro
August 31, 2014 at 9:41 am
You can use search and replace for that – put point of contact as the item to find and point-of-contact as the replacement and replace one with the other. I hope that helps! https://libroediting.com/2013/12/11/find-and-replace-in-word-1/
September 25, 2014 at 7:06 pm
Most automatic hyphens entered by WORD are fine but is there no shortcut to eliminate one of those, e.g.. when they result in half a word on a single line?
Liz at Libro
September 25, 2014 at 8:17 pm
Thanks for your comment, Martin. You can highlight the word, turn the hyphenation to manual and then hyphenate or not as you wish. Does that help?
October 13, 2014 at 4:44 am
thank you, this was useful
October 13, 2014 at 11:48 am
Is there any way to set automatic hyphenation as a standard feature, so to speak, so that any new Word document that we open will have it already installed?
Liz at Libro
October 13, 2014 at 12:58 pm
Yes, if you set up the document how you want it and then Save As Template, you will have a new template you can use when you want to use these features as a default.
May 15, 2015 at 1:51 pm
I’m having a heck of a time with hyphenation that simply refuses to turn off. Here’s what happens:
It starts with one instance of “configuring.” (I prefer keeping hyphenation off entirely, as I typically work in page-width formats for user manuals.) I click on that, look at Hyphenation, and hyphenation *says* it is off, which is clearly not the case. I go to manual and it sends me through the entire document, correcting hyphen after hyphen for all (8) pages. Then about five minutes of clicking later, “Hyphenation is complete!”
Back to where I started…”configuring” is split again. GRRR. Second verse same as the first. This is a rather awful loop to be stuck in, especially on deadline.
May 15, 2015 at 1:59 pm
Oh dear – that does not sound like fun. I fear you may have to do what I do when formatting goes on its own way and you’re being driven mad by it … If it’s possible, try copying and pasting the text into a brand new document. Even better is to pop it into a text editor (like Notepad) first or remove all formatting, but if you’ve got complicated formatting, that can make things even more time-consuming. I know it sounds like an over-simple solution, but it works for me! Let me know how you get on.
Dr. Vasim Kaji
March 11, 2016 at 3:36 pm
Thank You very much…
November 25, 2016 at 7:06 am
Thank you very much for nice explanation..
May 24, 2017 at 10:04 am
Thanks a lot! This was extremely helpful.
Konrad Skeri Ekblad
April 16, 2018 at 11:38 am
Sorry for the necropost, but this blog post is the top Google result for word hyphenation.
First, regarding manual hyphenation: You can press Ctrl+- (Ctrl and minus/hyphen) to insert a “soft hyphen”, which is only shown if the word is hyphenated there, otherwise it is invisible. Very handy even with automatic hyphenation turned on if you have long words (usually scientific) that Word does not have in its hyphenation dictionary.
Secondly, and the reason I came here: What ways are there to deactivate automatic hyphenation in just a given part of a Word document? In the paragraph dialog, under the text flow tab you have a “Do noy hyphen” checkbox so you can turn this of for a certain paragraph. However, I want to disable hyphenation in a table, and within table cells the paragraph dialog does not seem to be available.
April 17, 2018 at 7:16 am
I’m always happy to see comments on older posts (I still get lots on my very first how-to post, which I really wrote for myself, many years ago now but still causing issues!). Thank you for the note on soft hyphenation, that’s new to me and appreciated. As to the table hyphenation – try this. Highlight the cells you want to affect. Instead of doing right-click and Paragraph, go to Page Layout – Hyphenation (bottom right) and then you get the hyphenation options. Give that a go and let me know how you get on.
May 28, 2018 at 9:29 pm
May 31, 2018 at 7:05 am
I’m glad I was able to help!
October 5, 2022 at 5:08 am
Hi, can I know what to do if the file is already hyphenated unneccesarily? Some-thing like this is happen-ing and I don’t know how to remove the hyphens. Do I have to do it manually??
October 5, 2022 at 11:08 am
Thank you for your question. Do you mean it’s not hyphenated at the end of lines, but randomly throughout the text? Was it by any chance converted from a LaTeX file? if so, they can re-convert it after turning off the code that hyphenates the text and you should get more normal Word output. I hope that helps.