I'm testing this software hyphenator. It seems to be working overall quite well, but one thing struck me as odd, so I'm asking you language experts.

The word "something" doesn't get broken up into any pieces. It's solid. That means that, at least according to this software, in British English (or English, in Great Britain, more correctly), the word "something" must always be printed on the same line in a book/magazine, and never partially printed on one line with a hyphen on the next line.

On the other hand, if I switch from "en_GB" to "en_US" (USA English), it splits it up into two parts: "some" and "thing". In other words, in USA mode, it can be printed partially on one row as "some-" followed by "thing" on the next line.

Is this correct? Why is British English so "rigid" for this particular word? Maybe it also applies to many other words -- this is just a case I happened to spot with my eyes.

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    There is no "official" way of breaking words across lines. There are some overall rules for doing it, but there are enough borderline cases that different dictionaries give different linebreaks for a few words. I don't know what dictionary your software uses, or whether they wrote their own algorithms, but I am fairly sure most British printers would hyphenate some-thing after "some" if they needed to. (Unless they use the same software that you are.) – Peter Shor Feb 9 at 21:56
  • Do note that it's generally possible to override your software's "rules" for this. Read The Fine Manual. – Hot Licks Feb 9 at 22:34


For example, in the 2004 printing of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (for the British market, by Bloomsbury, the British publisher for the series), something is repeatedly hyphenated (pp. 46, 73, 135, 141, etc.)

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  • Upvoted for the amazing recall (or google-fu, as the case may be). Excellent example. – Lawrence Feb 10 at 6:15
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    Unfortunately, my memory is not what it once was. I could only recall the instances on pages 36 and 141 off the top of my head. I had to re-read the book to catch the others. – Mike Graham Feb 10 at 17:16
  • Now you're just showing off. :D – Lawrence Feb 10 at 17:21

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