In justified text, hyphenation is mandatory.
In left-aligned text, hyphenation evens the irregular right edge of the text, called the rag. Hyphenation is optional for left-aligned text because the rag will still be somewhat irregular, even with hyphenation. Hyphenation doesn’t improve text legibility. Consider turning it off.
As line length gets shorter, hyphenation becomes essential. Why? With hyphenation off, your word processor or web browser can only break lines at word spaces. As the lines get shorter, there are fewer words and hence fewer possible break points, making awkward breaks more likely.
hyphens: auto, though support is still spotty
Sometimes you may want to suppress automatic hyphenation. For instance, headings are relatively short, so hyphenation often causes more problems than it solves.
tions that render it utterly use-
less for our current needs.
contradictions that render it utterly
useless for our current needs.
Hyphenation can be suppressed in a single paragraph, or a set of paragraphs, if you suppress hyphenation within paragraph and character styles.
In word processors, you can exert rudimentary control over automatic hyphenation. If you’re curious, search your help file fornonbreaking hyphen and the optional hyphen solve most hyphenation problems, and even those are pretty rare. “hyphenation options.” Over the years, I’ve never touched these, so I doubt you’ll need to either. The
In pro page-layout programs, you can exert a lot of control over automatic hyphenation (usually in conjunction with justification, so all the settings together are known as
In web browsers, you can exert almost no control over automatic hyphenation, so if you use CSS hyphenation, be prepared for some clunkers.
If you’re using a web content-management system like WordPress, an alternative hyphenation method is to use a plugin that puts soft hyphens (aka optional hyphens) in the text. Soft hyphens are well supported in web browsers, even browsers that don’t support CSS hyphenation (e.g., desktop Chrome). This also allows somewhat more control over hyphenation. But it’s more work. If your project demands full justification, this might be worth it. Otherwise, probably not.