My word processor soft-hyphenated condolences as condolenc-es. Does this look natural to the eyes of native speakers? I, a non-native speaker, think it should be condolen-ces.

  • 8
    Knuth accepts only con-do-lences for purposes of hyphenation. This is not the same as syllabification.
    – tchrist
    Sep 8, 2014 at 2:54
  • @tchrist That said, I wonder which rule that one is hitting... is it that it breaks condolences down as condolence + non-syllable-adding-s since most -e words + s don't add a syllable, or that it doesn't like three letters on the next line (but surely it splits din-ner, né?)? I'm not one to question Knuth especially since it's pretty self-evident all the other options look...less than optimal, but still, curiousity and all. Sep 8, 2014 at 4:11
  • @guifa I image it’s either not putting enough on the next line or it’s something about misleading hyphenation breaks making you pronounce the word wrong if you leave a “soft” c at the end. There may also be some morphemic-boundary thing going on, too.
    – tchrist
    Sep 8, 2014 at 12:12
  • 1
    con-do-lenc-es is how I'd split the syllables, but one should never hyphenate a word two characters from the end like that.
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 23, 2015 at 0:52
  • I think the syllables would be con-dol-enc-es according to James Hoard's theory in Aspiration, Tenseness, and Syllabication in English, jstor.org/stable/412191?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
    – Greg Lee
    Oct 23, 2015 at 1:27

3 Answers 3


con-do-lenc-es is how I'd split the syllables, but one should never (except in extreme situations) hyphenate a word two characters from the end like that.


If you were going solely by pronunciation, you would split the word condolen-ces. The word is split condolenc-es to keep the root word condolence as intact as possible.

Looking at similar words, Merriam-Webster suggests the line-breaking hyphenations chan-cel-lor and can-cel, but chanc-ing and danc-er.


The entire portion lence is a single syllable so it should technically not be split apart, however pluralizing the word causes the creation of an addistional syllable which cannot be expressed by s alone, so you'd have to add an extra e to express the proper syllable es so:




  • 1
    As tchrist pointed out, hyphenation is not syllabification, so you would end up with *condolencees. Feb 20, 2016 at 11:15
  • OK, you're right, I mistook the question. Why didn't Knuth answer in the form of an answer, though? Makes it awfully hard for the person asking to check their question off as having been answered if there isn't one.
    – Sk Johnson
    Feb 21, 2016 at 14:04
  • Knuth is the author of the extremely good hyphenation algorithm (and program) used in TeX, and "Knuth says" is what you get when you use this to hyphenate "condolences". Mar 22, 2016 at 11:13

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