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I'm typing in Microsoft Word, and it automatically separated the word T-shirt when it ran out of room:

blah blah blah, Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, I have a T-
shirt

leaving just the letter "T" on one line. This doesn't look right to me at all, or for any compound, hyphenated word, yet basically all text boxes will split words at a dash on separate lines if needed. I would prefer:

I have a
T-shirt

I know it would be fine if I was splitting words in a narrow column, like the newspaper, but is there a rule about what you're supposed to do to words like this? Is my way always right, or Word's, or either? (How to get Word to actually stop doing it is a totally different question...)

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possible duplicate of Rules for splitting words at the end of a line –  Mehper C. Palavuzlar Aug 23 '10 at 10:36

5 Answers 5

up vote 1 down vote accepted

In a modern word processor with paragraph justification, there is rarely if ever any reason to split words between lines, unless they are truly giganto-sesquipedalian. A word like 'T-shirt' should never be split. How to get Word to act this way is a topic for another Stack Exchange.

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The way to stop a text editor doing this is to use a special character called a "Non-breaking hyphen". That said, modern versions of MS Office don't seem to break at normal hyphens: Word 2007 keeps both halves of "T-shirt" or "auto-update" on the same line.

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yeah, I was hoping there was a non-breaking hyphen like a non-breaking space... however, Word 2007 isn't doing it automatically for me –  eds Aug 24 '10 at 16:45

I don't know whether it's normal, but I'd say it's incorrect, or at least ambiguous. T-shirt is not Tshirt. Splitting the word on the hyphen leads to ambiguity. It should be kept on one line to indicate that the hyphen is indeed part of the word.

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This is an interesting point in general, but it doesn't actually apply in this particular case. If there were no hyphen after the "T", you wouldn't even consider splitting the word directly after it, so there is no ambiguity. In other words, you can't confuse T-shirt with Tshirt, because the latter doesn't exist, and if it did, you wouldn't hyphenate it as T-shirt, much like you'd never hyphenate t-remendous or t-hrough. –  RegDwigнt Aug 24 '10 at 13:44
    
How about "re-cover" meaning "to cover again"? In some contexts, reading it as "recover" could yield a sentence which had a semantically sensible, but incorrect, meaning. –  supercat Aug 25 at 21:41

When I was first learning to write in school, it was indicated to our class that if you start writing a word that is too long to fit on a line, and find you need to split it, the convention was to hyphenate between syllables, and move the second part of the word to the next line.

Long story short: yes, it is acceptable to do this with already-hyphenated words, or even to split and hyphenate long words to separate lines.

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I don't really understand your question - you mean "is it normal to hyphenate a word at a point where the word already has a hyphen?" I would think so, yes.

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I mean to separate the second part of the word onto the next line; I updated my example so hopefully you see what I mean –  eds Aug 23 '10 at 2:01

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