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-

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

I know it would be fine if I were 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...)

  • 1
    Incidentally, ctrl-shift-minus will provide a non-breaking hyphen. Yes, I said hyphen.
    – SrJoven
    Feb 27, 2015 at 15:13
  • 2
    I don't understand how these questions are duplicates. This one is regarding words which are already hyphenated while the other discusses words which are not. I can find no examples on the other page which present the same room for ambiguity that is caused by 'T-shirt'. The answers may be the same but the question most definitely is not. Aug 29, 2015 at 17:53

5 Answers 5


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.


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.

  • 1
    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, 2010 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, 2014 at 21:41
  • How about adding a second hyphen to indicate that the hyphen is part of the word? I remember in high school learning to hyphenate in a way that would become, in this case, "T- <next line> -shirt". Is that not proper?
    – sleighty
    Apr 6, 2020 at 5:24

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.

  • 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, 2010 at 2:01

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.

  • So is T<break>-shirt Tshirt or T-shirt?
    – Nebula
    Aug 26, 2016 at 12:07

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.

  • 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, 2010 at 16:45

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