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Client request: "eliminate all hyphens" in newsletter

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Hi All --

The project is an 8-page corporate editorial-style newsletter. 8.5 x 11" page, three-column grid, serif typeface (9.5 point Sabon on 13 points leading), ragged-right alignment.

The client has got some bug up her @$5 that "hyphens are bad in all circumstances" and has directed that no words shall ever be hyphenated. Ever.

Now, I understand that it's bad form to allow hyphens in headlines. Subheads. Deckheads. Maybe even pull quotes. But... eliminate all hyphens from the body copy? This is going to make for a rather awkward rag (at the best) or a lot of time spent walking the lines trying to fix the rag.

Anyone ever had this request? I'm sure there's gotta be some readability study out there that I can point to that proves hyphens -- when used sparingly in body copy -- actually help readability.


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This is going to make for a rather awkward rag (at the best) or a lot of time spent walking the lines trying to fix the rag.

Depending on your content and the size of your gutter, yes, it might be a problem, but it might not either. If you've got a narrower gutter and wider columns, and most words under 11 letters, it may well not be one.

I set ragged-right text without hyphens very often, and no one has complained about readability, so you probably can't use that at a rationale....

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Elizabeth, proxy argumentation with nazis is hopeless. Especially in ASCII! :-/

"Richard", I think the best you can do is follow orders but gently
help her realize through your results that she needs to loosen up.
If the measure is long enough (I see your leading is huge, which is
encouraging - if only in a twisted way) you can reduce hyphens,
which I actually agree is beneficial, but an Absolute Ban is nuts.


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You could show her an assortment of publications which demonstrate the widespread acceptable use of hyphens with the hope she may change her mind.

You could conjure a fatal storm of lead hyphens to rain down upon her with the hope she is replaced with a more reasonable editor.

Or you could say to her that it's an unusual request (which consumes column inches and can result in raggedy arsed columns which may compromise readablity) but that you would be more than happy to do all that extra work for an additional cost.

If it pays why argue with fools?

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I agree with the client--no hyphenation! Sorry if that puts me in with the "fools." I just think it's not needed, is less readable, and you may end up with some really wierd computer-generated hyphenation. By the way, I noticed that none of these posts are hyphenated.

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I avoid hyphens in ragged text but there are occasions when it's essential to prevent a really weird shape in your rag. I'd say do your best not to use them (turn hyphenation off, as suggested) and then manually introduce them only if necessary. And then take it case by case with the boss. Odds are she won't even notice the odd hyphen. It is neither an unusual nor an unreasonable request but I tend to resist that sort of rigid attitude too in favor of a little more flexibility.

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A client asking to eliminate hyphens in ragged settings is no big deal. Means the rag will be a little looser, and you'll have to massage it a little bit more to make it look good. But you should be doing that anyway. You are a typographer not a computer-monkey.

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It might be unusual to get that kind of absolute directive, but it ain't unheard of, and I've heard some a lot more outlandish! In any case, at 9.5/13, with a column width of, say 12p2 to 13p6 (which you'll probably get w/3 legs on letter), I don't think it'll be a problem either. Like Ken said, it'll loosen up the rag, but you're leading it out nicely anyway, so it may just reinforce the air.

The problem I run into is long urls in running text. How do you hyphenate those without confusing the reader?

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The problem is that removing hyphenation will generally make reading easier -- except that every so often it will create an oddity of adjacent line-lengths which draws attention to itself, looking like a word has been left out. So highlight those instances in fluourescent marker, and ask her if you can re-write the copy to get a smoother rag. And I say this only partially in jest. :-)/:-(

(There is also a problem in rag copy where by chance several adjacent lines come out to the full measure, looking like some justification got mixed in by mistake. Another cause for intervention with the dreaded soft return.)

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> The problem I run into is long urls in running text.
> How do you hyphenate those without confusing the reader?

Not to start a Typo-L-style mess, but the least problematic
solution I've heard of is to use the logical-not character.


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I'm not sure if you're asking what I'm thinking. The logical-not at the end of an incomplete URL can indicate that it should be ignored and the rest of the URL from the following line should be appended. Sort of like a special hyphen for URLs. The reason this can work is that the hyphen is allowed in URLs but the logical-not... is not! :-) On the other hand, some people will tend to get confused. Natural selection, baby. ;-)


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I have had this request many times over. My only solution was to do a flush left/rag right. When they come back and say, Justify" - I say, "Hyphens."

Then of course I ask them to cut some copy, because let's face it, justified lines with hyphens takes up less room.

Good luck - you can do it -- just takes more time per page to make it look right - beware of rivers....

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We get all sorts of requests regarding hyphenation -- usually from editors, sometimes from designers. With ragged setting, I've seen "no hyphens," "no more than two hyphens in a row" (a usual hyphen block in justified copy is more than three), "don't hyphenate after two only letters," and on & on. On the other hand, some specify "tight ragg." A few want lines to have a pattern of "long, short, long, short." Those are the only ones I tell to find another typesetter.

People have all sorts of theories on what is easier to read. I use to have them, too. But I can read a book & enjoy it & forget my profession. So on a number of occasions, after finishing a book, I went back to look at the hyphenation that had been used. Most of them broke all sorts of my pet rules, & I finally had to admit most of these rules are a matter of what people (including me) used to feel more professional; they had nothing to do with reading.

One thing people often seem to forget is that all composition is compromise. Hyphenation aids even spacing -- between words in justified copy, at line ends in ragged copy. Unless you write & rewrite the copy to fit the space, limiting one increased the amount of the other.

One of my favorite PE's was "PE, loose line; PE, hyphenated word." Both PE's referring to the same line. The hyphenated word was a long one, and all agreed it wasn't going to come up. So to banish the hyphen, the line perforce had to get even looser. Where do they think loose space space comes from?

There is also a fun situation with 18th century composition. Apparently, some felt the reader might get lost if a word hyphenated overleaf. So, if that happened, they would set the complete word on the line below that last line; the reader would then have the whole word. Next, someone got the idea that even if the word wasn't hyphenated, the reader might get lost, so they set the next word (that occurred overleaf) on the line below. Apparently someone finally figured out that the logical end to that was to set the whole rest of the chapter on the line(s) below, which wasn't going to work, so they stopped this nonsense. Today, with people reading while listening to music & maybe watching television simultaneously, this argument ("the reader will get confused") has little merit.

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I don't think it's a big deal to be specified no hyphenation if your text is going to be set ragged-right. I normally set the text up with hyphenation and 'Paragraph Composer' turned off, and then go through it line by line manually adjusting the line breaks. And you've only got 8 pages of text so it's not a big deal to do this. If you do it well a deep-rag can look nice.

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