Typography Tip #2.

Typography Tip #2. When justifying text in Microsoft Word use the hyphenation feature to improve the look of your page. Notice in the text block on the left, there is a lot of unnecessary “white space” distributed throughout. When hyphenation is turned on the overall typographic color of the page is much more even. To enable this feature in Microsoft Word do the following: After you have justified the columns in your document, choose from the “Tools menu” > Language > then from the dropdown menu, choose hyphenation, then choose “Automatically hyphenate document”


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Comments (17)
  1. tzagotta says:

    What are your views on not right justifying text in the first place?

  2. fbcontrb says:

    Ragged right setting is fine also. To make the text setting look its best in ragged right you often have to spend some time making sure that the rag on the right is not too ragged, in other words, that the line lenghts from line to line do not vary to much.

    there is a discussion right now on Typophile about the subject, which may be of interest.



  3. Nathan says:

    I always thought it was improper to hyphenate a word if only one syllable would be left on either the top or bottom line. Is that not the case?

  4. Mike Fourie says:

    Do you know if there are any plans in Office 12 to support hypenation/punctuation that hangs outside the margin? It’s such a pretty thing to look at, and as far as I can tell Word doesn’t support it.


  5. Stephen says:

    Could you comment on the decision to disable by default in Word those typographic no-brainers like hyphenation and kerning?

  6. Danny says:

    Great tip.

    But MS Word UI team have to put some effort in this: how can a normal person use the "Language" menu to access the hyphenation? I don’t get it, sorry.

  7. Greg says:

    What’s the difference in setting hyphenation on from setting the option "Do full justification like WordPerfect 6.x for Windows" (http://office-watch.com/office/archtemplate.asp?v6-n40)?

  8. Mihai says:

    I feel that hyphenation setting should be part of the paragraph style definition.

  9. fbcontrb says:

    Thanks for all the comments, I will try to answer as best I can in one post. Our job is to encourage all of the application teams here at Microsoft to enable best practices for typographic layout, and there are often competing demands for new features, so this does not happen as fast as we would like. The Hanging punctuation feature is something we would love to see Word support, as well as more sophisticated Kerning and OpenType Layout features. There has already been quite a bit of work done here at Microsoft to improve the Paragraph layout including hanging punctuation support, however this has not been adopted by Word just yet.

    We of course continue to encourage these new features. It would also be great to get more direct feedback from customers in this regard also. We will forward the comments so far to the appropriate teams at Microsoft. This link may be useful for more direct feedback if anyone who has posted so far is interested.


    this link may also be of interest


    Stephen – My understanding on Kerning not being on by default, is that this was historically a performance issue.

    Danny – With regard to making the document design features more automatic, or easier to find, the next Version of Word has a completely new UI which is designed to do exactly that, although I am unsure if Hyphenation is something that is made more obvious.

    Nathan – Hyphenating a word at a syllable is ok. If the hyphenated word break happens over a page turn, in other words if the last word on a page is hyphenated, this should be avoided if possible.

    Greg – I will have to further investigate the WordPerfect pointer to fully understand the issue, and will post something on this at a future date


  10. Robert says:

    In the text sample above, it might be even nicer to apply hyphenation to the word "patterns" only:

    Imagine that you have before you a

    flagon of wine. You may choose your

    own favorite vintage for this imaginary

    demonastration, so that it be a deep

    shimmering crimson in color. You have

    two goblets before you. One is of solid

    gold, wrought in the most exquisite pat-

    terns. The other is crystal-clear glass,

    thin as a bubble, and as transparent.

    Pour and drink; and according to your

    choice of goblet, I shall know whether

    or not you are a connoisseur of wine.

  11. Frostie says:

    Can’t wait for #3.

    Great blog too.

  12. Adrian says:

    From both examples, it seems Word is putting slightly larger spaces between sentences than between words (on any given line). Personally, I like this, but it seems to go contrary to Tip #1, which suggested that color would be disturbed if intersentence and interword spacing were different.

    Do TrueType and OpenType fonts allow for the font designer to specify how much extra space (if any) to include between sentences? I know TeX (METAFONT) fonts have a parameter like this.

  13. Hussain says:

    Sorry for commenting a bit late on this, but has the Microsoft typography team considered developing an advanced multi-line composition feature for paragraph text? Something similar to what InDesign does to even out the white space in justified paragraphs?

    Herman Zapf and Peter Karow developed the Hz program many years ago to also address this issue. (I’m sure you probably know all this!)

    I realize this is a high-end feature, but it would be brilliant if it was implemented at an operating system level.

    Thanks for such a enjoyable and informative blog.

  14. fbcontrb says:

    There is a group at Microsoft that has been working on advanced multi-line composition for paragraph text.

    We’re aware of the Hz work that Karrow did at URW and how much of this was incorporated in Adobe products.

    The Microsoft work, which also includes support for mathematical typesetting, will slowly work its way into Microsoft’s products.

  15. Do you still use Knuth-Liang hyphenation? I know that Frank Liang worked on the hyphenation engine in Word back in the day but…

  16. CHris says:

    Somebody at Microsoft is actually working on Word? Jesus.

    Actually, I think that makes it worse.  For a 1994 program Word isn’t that bad; for a 2006 product it’s unspeakable.

    Anyway, can they shove all this typographic stuff to the back of the desk and just fix the damn thing so it can handle large documents without exploding?

  17. tzagotta says:

    Instead of compaining here, which is ineffective, please find a constructive way to solve your problem.

    For example, download the Office 2007 Beta and test your use cases.  If you find bugs, then report them.

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