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hyphens: word division

If at all possible, avoid dividing words at the end of a line. However, when space is at a premium, word division at line breaks may be necessary. Here is a list of the essential points to remember about word division.


  • Divide words between syllables (bas-ket, pic-ture). But not all syllable breaks are acceptable as end-of-line breaks, so be sure to follow the other guidelines below.
  • Divide between double consonants (equip-ping, not equipp-ing or equi-pping).
  • Divide a word between the prefix and the following letter (re-location), or between the root and the suffix (convert-ible).
  • Divide compounds between elements (under-mine) or at the hyphen (court-martial, not court-mar-tial).
  • Divide words ending in ing at that syllable (turn-ing), except in the case of a doubled consonant before ing, when the division should be made between the doubled consonants (bid-ding, control-ling).
  • When the verb has an l preceded by a consonant, carry over the letter preceding the l (han-dling, dwin-dling, tin-kling).


  • Do not divide words of one syllable or words in which the second "syllable" contains only a silent e (aimed, helped, vexed, etc.).
  • Do not divide a word if the division will create a single-letter syllable (again, not a-gain).
  • Do not carry two-letter syllables over to the next line (fully, not ful-ly).
  • Do not carry over final syllables in which a liquid l is the only pronounced vowel sound (pos-sible, not possi-ble; prin-ciples, not princi-ples).
  • Do not create breaks that may cause the reader to confuse one word with another (re-appear, not reap-pear). Similarly, such words as women and often should be left unbroken.
  • Do not divide words that would result in awkward divisions such as every, only, eighteen and people.
  • Do not divide abbreviations, contractions or numbers (UNDP, won’t, 235 006 114.37). Abbreviations or symbols used with numerals should not be separated from the numerals (16 kg, 0 °C, s. 4, 11:55 a.m.).
  • Do not divide the last word on a page.

When in doubt, consult a reliable English language dictionary to see how to divide a word properly.