In Czech typography, some prepositions are not allowed to be at the end of the line, so line break is not allowed between that preposition and the following word.

Are there similar rules in English typography? Are there any situations where a line break is not allowed or discouraged?

Note: I'm not worried about hyphenation, I expect that my typesetting program (LaTeX) will handle that for me.

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    There may be some rules that printers use, but I'm not aware of any. If in doubt, consider what makes for easy reading. Commented May 8, 2012 at 14:18
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    Don’t line break between a number expressed in digits and the noun it applies to. Don’t line break at an abbreviation that has a period at the end of it, or they will think it is the end of the sentence.
    – tchrist
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 14:26
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    @Kris, the first result is this question, the second is “Rules for Breaking Lines in Asian Languages”. The rest deal mostly with hyphenation.
    – svick
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 15:42
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    @Kris, and regarding writers.SE, they don't even have tags for typography or typesetting, so I'm not sure it's suitable.
    – svick
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 15:46
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    @tchrist: Why not post an answer with a link that references your source? Commented May 8, 2012 at 17:02

3 Answers 3


In English you can have a line break at any point in a sentence, it is not restricted by nouns, verbs, prepositions, etc. The only restrictions I have come across are the ones pointed out by @Gnawme, the "widows" and "orphans", but those rules are aesthetic and not grammatical.

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    Reading this on my phone, the browser put a linebreak between "@" and "Gnawne", which looks wrong.
    – Hugo
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 7:25

Though meant for creating subtitles for foreign users, this link of TED was quite informative for my purposes—deciding line breaks for two/three-line-per-page stories for children. It’s less grammar based and more aesthetic based.

A few important rules I understand from above are:

  • Do not break up linguistic units among lines.
  • Maintain balance, similar length, between multiple lines. Maintaining line-length balance is more important than keep linguistic units together.
  • When absolutely necessary to keep linguistic units together (like a person’s name), then the line break should still not cause a line to be more than 50% shorter than the other line.

Further quotes from above link:

  • The articles (a, an, the) are never followed by a line break.

  • An adjective should stay together with what it is describing, but two or more adjectives can sometimes be separated with commas, and then it is possible (though not preferable) to break a line after one of the commas.

  • Clauses should stay together (never break lines after relative pronouns like which, that, who, etc.).

  • Prepositions are not followed by a line break if the break would separate them from the noun they refer to. A preposition in a concrete/physical meaning (e.g. "The book is in the drawer") always precedes a noun, and cannot be followed by a line break. However, in English, a preposition that is part of a phrasal verb (put up, figure out, take in) may sometimes not be followed by a noun ("I figured it out yesterday"), and so, it can be followed by a line break.

  • Proper names should stay together if at all possible (think of them as a single word with many parts).

Grammatical style guides don’t seem to cover the rules for line breaks, but another link might help

Important paragraph from above-mentioned link:

Oxford says in page 140 that "Do not carry over parts of abbreviations, dates, or numbers to the next line", "Do not break numbers at a decimal point, or separate them from their abbreviated units, as with 15 kg or 300 BC. If unavoidable large numbers may be broken (but not hyphenated) at their comma, though not after a single digit: 493,|000,|000."

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    This should be the accepted answer. While typography IS mostly concerned with visual aesthetic (designing around rags, widows, and orphans), a proper rag can only be accomplished by working with a combination of tracking, kerning, and line-breaking techniques. The guidelines mentioned here are intended to maintain the integrity and readability of the text, and as such, are paramount to working with typography.
    – Tracy Fu
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 23:40

A concern for typographers in almost any language (typography is a visual art, after all) is avoiding widows and orphans. As this site explains:

A widow is a short line or single word at the end of a paragraph. An orphan is a word or short line at the beginning or end of a column that is separated from the rest of the paragraph. Widows and Orphans create awkward rags, interrupt the reader’s eye and affect readability. They can be avoided by adjusting the type size, leading, measure, wordspacing, letterspacing or by entering manual line breaks.

Not paying attention to this detail might make for awkward, if not erroneous, reading -- imagine if you left a key word in a paragraph a widow, and the page break was such that the widow ended up on a separate page -- but it wouldn't cause grammatical errors in English.

  • Incidentally, this is not specific to the English language. A little effort may throw up more relevent info.
    – Kris
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 16:07
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    @Kris My answer begins A concern for typographers in almost any language...
    – Gnawme
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 16:09
  • Which is the reason I suspect it is off-topic on EL&U. In fact, it's not about typography either.
    – Kris
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 18:35

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