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  • Writer's pictureRaphaël Freeman

Wonky Hyphenation

InDesign does a fantastic job at breaking words at the end of a line according to a variety of settings within the software:

It has built-in dictionaries for various languages, and it gets it right 99.9% of the time. However, sometimes it does get it wrong, and in particular, when dealing with transliterated words or foreign words, it will hyphenate according to English. If the word is, for example, French, you can add a note to text and write: “hyphenate according to French.” But what happens if the word is a transliterated word or simply wrong?

In the example below, InDesign incorrectly hyphenated the word “conspiracists” after the letter “c”. Checking on Merriam-Webster, the word should be hyphenated: con·​spir·​a·​cist. If you are marking up the text for bad breaks, you might be tempted to fix it like this:

As you can see, the letter “c” was deleted, and then another “c” was inserted before “ists”. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do anything because InDesign will hyphenate in the same spot after implementing the correction. We haven’t told InDesign where the correct point is to hyphenate. Also, we haven’t given the option to hyphenate after the syllable “con”, which might result in better spacing. Finally, the word might occur in other places in the text. Instead, rather than “correcting the word”, we need to indicate how the word should be hyphenated in InDesign.

Fortunately, we can not only indicate this during pdf markup, but we can even show our preference as to the best place to hyphenate. In other words, we are giving weighting to the hyphenation. In this example, let us start by marking precisely what Mirriam-Webster suggests. We can replace the word with con~spir~​a~​cist using the tilde as a marker for where this word can be broken.

To add weight to the hyphenation, we can use several tildes; we’ll say that we would like (if possible) to hyphenate after the syllable “con”, but if not, then after the syllable “a,” but if that does not result in good spacing, then break after the syllable “spir” In other words, we are saying that we vastly prefer to hyphenate after “con” rather than “spir”. One tilde indicates the most desirable position, with three tildes the least:

By marking up the pdf in this way, even though the correction has been made only once, InDesign will always break the word according to the weighting of the hyphenation throughout the entire manuscript. The typesetter can now add this word with the correct hyphenation points to the InDesign dictionary:

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