How to Use Hyphenation in Word 2016

By Peter Weverka

The first thing you should know about hyphenating words in Word 2016 is that you may not need to do it. Text that hasn’t been hyphenated is much easier to read. Most book text, for example, has a ragged right margin, to borrow typesetter lingo. Hyphenate only when text is trapped in columns or in other narrow places, or when you want a very formal-looking document.

Do not insert a hyphen simply by pressing the hyphen key, because the hyphen will stay there even if the word moves to the middle of a line and doesn’t need to be broken in half. Instead, when a big gap appears in the right margin and a word is crying out to be hyphenated, put the cursor where the hyphen needs to go and press Ctrl+hyphen. This way, you enter what is called a discretionary hyphen, and the hyphen appears only if the word breaks at the end of a line. (To remove a discretionary hyphen, press the Show/Hide button so that you can see it, and then backspace over it.)

Automatically and manually hyphenating a document

Select text if you want to hyphenate part of a document, not all of it, and use one of these techniques to hyphenate words that break on the end of a line of text:

  • Automatic hyphenation: On the Layout tab, click the Hyphenation button and choose Automatic on the drop-down list. Word hyphenates your document (or a portion of your document, if you selected it first).

    You can tell Word how to hyphenate automatically by clicking the Hyphenation button and choosing Hyphenation Options. You see the Hyphenation dialog box shown. Deselect the Hyphenate Words in CAPS check box if you don’t care to hyphenate words in uppercase. Words that fall in the hyphenation zone are hyphenated, so enlarging the hyphenation zone means a less ragged right margin but more ugly hyphens, and a small zone means fewer ugly hyphens but a more ragged right margin. You can limit how many hyphens appear consecutively by entering a number in the Limit Consecutive Hyphens To box.

  • Manual hyphenation: On the Layout tab, click the Hyphenation button and choose Manual on the drop-down list. Word displays a box with some hyphenation choices in it, as shown here. The cursor blinks on the spot where Word suggests putting a hyphen. Click Yes or No to accept or reject Word’s suggestion. Keep accepting or rejecting Word’s suggestions until the text is hyphenated.

    Telling Word how to hyphenate (left) and deciding where a hyphen goes (right).

    Telling Word how to hyphenate (left) and deciding where a hyphen goes (right).

Unhyphenating and other hyphenation tasks

More hyphenation esoterica:

  • Unhyphenating: To “unhyphenate” a document or text you hyphenated automatically, go to the Layout tab, click the Hyphenation button, and choose None on the drop-down menu.

  • Preventing text from being hyphenated: Select the text and, on the Home tab, click the Paragraph group button. In the Paragraph dialog box, select the Line and Page Breaks tab, and select the Don’t Hyphenate check box. (If you can’t hyphenate a paragraph, it’s probably because this box was selected unintentionally.)