4

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?

  • 1
    I've seen a style guide recommending rather than censuring the practice. Note that 'self-supporting' is compound. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 4 '16 at 19:24
  • 2
    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 Oct 4 '16 at 19:50
5

Yes, at least according to the Purdue OWL:

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

mass-
produced
self-
conscious

  • If I were introducing a new compound word, I might want to avoid breaking it at all the first few times. – EL_DON Oct 5 '16 at 1:46
  • 1
    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? – Bruno Ely Apr 28 at 17:45

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