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When using a hyphenated compound word (i.e., a compound adjective, verb, or noun) in a document and the word splits across two lines due to it being at the end of a line, is it considered improper to split it across lines and should one instead force it to the next line with a non-breaking hyphen?

For example, the compound adjective self-supporting:

A good mat for this purpose should have enough rigidity such that the mat is self‑
supporting

versus

A good mat for this purpose should have enough rigidity such that the mat is
self‑supporting

In other words, should one use a non-breaking hyphen in compound words so that the reader does not mistake the word for not being compound (e.g., selfsupporting) and just broken at a syllable due to being at the end of the line?

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  • 1
    I've seen a style guide recommending rather than censuring the practice. Note that 'self-supporting' is compound. Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 19:24
  • 3
    This is perfectly acceptable to every publication I've ever worked for, which includes about twenty magazine and several book publishers. Many do not permit a double break--for example, putting "self-support-" on one line and "ing" on the next. Many computers programs do permit this, however, and editors often go into a file to manually override such a break. This has nothing to do with content or meaning or the reader's understanding--it is simply an aesthetic preference.
    – user66965
    Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 19:50

1 Answer 1

6

Yes, at least according to the Purdue OWL:

For line breaks, divide already-hyphenated words only at the hyphen:

mass-
produced
self-
conscious

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  • If I were introducing a new compound word, I might want to avoid breaking it at all the first few times.
    – EL_DON
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 1:46
  • 2
    In Portuguese, we repeat the hyphen on the next line as well to make it clearer, resulting in (where / is the line break) mass-/-produced or self-/-conscious. Is that ever used in English?
    – sleighty
    Commented Apr 28, 2019 at 17:45
  • I've never seen hyphen doubling (having one copy at the end of line and another at the start of next line) in English nor Finnish (then languages I'm very familiar with). I know that Swedish doubles some letters in some cases. For example, Swedish word "tuggummi" (chewing gum) is hyphenated as "tugg- gummi" when hyphenated on separate lines. I think rules for hyphenation of any given language are a result of local historical decisions and we don't have international standards how hyphenation should work. I consider hyphenation similar to collation order – do not try to apply any logic. Commented Aug 25, 2022 at 12:16

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