'Hyphenation' is too ambiguous. It doesn't distinguish mandatorily hyphenated compounds like 'time-consuming' (more examples) vs. optional hyphenation at the margins in publications (example).

  • 4
    This Wikipedia article uses << It may be necessary to distinguish an incidental line-break hyphen from one integral to a word being mentioned (as when used in a dictionary) or present in an original text being quoted ... >> (emphasis mine), so one assumes there isn't a more concise term. Jan 17, 2018 at 20:34
  • I haven't come across a useful term in discussions if hyphenation algorithms and related LaTeX topics. Further reading at Wikipedia: soft hyphen suggests that one meaning of soft hyphen fits, but there's another meaning (place where a hyphen could be inserted if needed for line breaking) that means it's not much help
    – Chris H
    Jan 17, 2018 at 22:07
  • The linked post has been deleted. For users with less than 10k the question is now "not found"
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 26, 2018 at 17:29

1 Answer 1


You're in the realm of typography and word processing here, really, aren't you? About 'how the words show up on the page'.

I would call hyphenation, a function of 'word-wrap' - how the words wrap at the right hand margin when justifying text.

Here's a link to a typography page about this, which is really 'a problem' caused by the software incorrectly hyphenating words, which the typographer would aim to catch, and fix, before publication.


You could call it an 'automated word-break', automated hyphen. Or a 'manual word-break', manual hyphen. 'Word-break' - the tendency for words to need to break, is a term you could use.

It's a 'soft-hyphen' if the system software makes it happen automatically - it could be a 'hard-hyphen' if you type in the hyphen manually, or type in another code or codes that manually makes the hyphen occur.

So, 'soft and hard hyphenation', would be term you could potentially use.

You could call it 'justification' - that is the word for everything to do with making the left, right, or both, margins line up and be straight. Which is why hyphenation is necessary, as I'll explain in a moment.

The left margin is 'left justification'. The right, is 'right justification' or 'right justified'. Both, is known as 'full justification' or 'fully justified'.

Both full, and right, justification involves hyphenation - either soft, or hard (automatic, or manual) - because on the right, is where the words have to break, to make a straight line. Obviously left justification only, involves no hyphenation or less hyphenation - as words come to their natural conclusion at the right, unjustified, margin. Only super-long words might have to break, to fit on a line.

The need for hyphenation in justified text occurs where the text, when spread out to fully fill the line space - is insufficient to stretch to fill the whole width. Because a long word flipped to the next line - leaves the preceding line looking - well a bit bare! The justifier then spreads that small amount of text to fill the line...

...That's where you get gaps between letters that c o u l d l o o k s o m e t h i n g l i k e t h i s - which looks ugly and is hard to read, so that is why a word-split is introduced, to allow enough text to be present on a line, to properly fill it, so that the spacing still looks attractive, and the text is pleasant and easy to read.

There's another expression you could possibly use - 'word-split'. I think I just coined that, but maybe it would work!

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