Making a case for hyphenation

jidoe's picture

I'm laying out a newletter/magazine, and the client recently asked to remove all hyphens from the text (which is left-justified).

My feeling is that hyphens improve legibility by leading the eye and allowing for a more even and less jumpy rag. I was thinking about my rationale today and realized I have no proof to back up the legibility angle. Was wondering if anyone knows of any studies that have been done on the topic or if there is any science (psuedo or otherwise) that I could use to defend my preference for hyphenating text. If I can make the case for improved legibility I think it will be easier persuade the client.

Thanks, eh!

JamesM's picture

I've had the same problem with some clients who insist on no hyphenation, or who nit-pik the hyphenation so much that I end up eliminating it. Drives me nuts.

quadibloc's picture

Obviously, rivers in text are a bad thing.

So, back when text was fully justified, and columns were narrow (there is a little research, but a lot of rules of thumb, on column width), hyphenation made sense.

Now that computers do it, they make mistakes.

And when text is ragged right, do the line widths need to be still close, or can the right side be more ragged without harm? I don't know of any research on this point.

JamesM's picture

Perhaps someone knows of a study, but my guess is that hyphenation is used more for a better visual appearance.

And if your client has a preference for no hyphenation, a dusty old academic study won't change their mind anyway. Your best bet might be to show them examples of popular, well-designed magazines that use hyphenation.

jidoe's picture

Thanks for the suggestion. I was thinking the same thing yesterday... showing them some nicely design publications which use hyphenation might make them feel more comfortable about it. I've got some narrow columns which are especially hard to typeset without hyphenation.

Maxim Zhukov's picture

Was wondering if anyone knows of any studies that have been done on the topic or if there is any science (psuedo or otherwise) that I could use to defend my preference for hyphenating text.

I know of no studies—they should exist, though—but I can recommend two good articles, “The Justification for Hyphenation”, and “The Hyphenation of Justification”, written by John Berry for creativepro.com/dot-font.com back in 2000. I still find them very useful, and always refer to them whenever the “H&J” issue comes up—in discussing my own work for the clients, or in class.

Sam Lowry's picture

You are definitely correct about how much better editorial text is with hyphenation. And pretty much every magazine would use hyphenation so you won't need to look hard.

There is a previous thread http://typophile.com/node/30235 which will give you various viewpoints.

Nick Shinn's picture

With no hyphenation in ragged text, both pseudo-justification and great disparities of line length will randomly occur in adjacent lines, which is more intrusive and disruptive to smooth reading than hyphenation.

jidoe's picture

Thanks a bunch folks, some very helpful links and info being shared. Cheers.

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