In this installment of How to Typeset a Book, we’ll deal with hyphens. What’s the big deal about hyphens, anyway? Well, for starters, they can seriously impede reading comprehension if you don’t control them.
Hyphenation: When you typeset a book, it helps to understand that hyphenation works hand-in-hand with justification settings to create book type that is easy to read. Hyphenation should be set so the reader isn’t annoyed by too many hyphens generally, or too many hyphens in a row. I allow 3 hyphens in a row. More than that, and it starts to look like ladders on the right margin. Some publishers prefer no more than 2 hyphens in a row. Some publishers specify a limit for the number of hyphens on a page, a rule which can’t be defined in software, which means the designer has to manually adjust every paragraph on the page!
In InDesign, I set the minimum number of letters in a word before a hyphen to 3, because a hyphen after 2 letters is really distracting. The reader has to guess what the word may be. I set the minimum number of letters after a hyphen to 4, so that the common suffix –ing doesn’t wind up on the next line. You can also choose the minimum length of the word that may be hyphenated. I choose 7 for regular text. If you’re allowing hyphens in ragged text as discussed above, you may want to set this value higher, so that only very long words are broken.
In book design, it’s best to avoid hyphenating the last line on the page, because once again, it forces the reader to wonder what comes next, and hold that partial word in mind as they continue reading. The stub end of a hyphenated word should never be the last line in a paragraph. Ugly.
Avoid hyphenating capitalized words such as names, locations and titles. InDesign has a checkbox for this preference, but if you’re working in an application that doesn’t offer this feature, then you can enter the “no-break” character before such words.
In the next post, we’ll get even further into the nitty-gritty of typesetting. Yep, you’re not done yet…there’s even more to think about!
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Michele DeFilippo, owner, 1106 Design