In typesetting terms, hyphenation is the method of breaking words across lines, indicated by a hyphen at the break point. It is a complicated balancing act between typographic and linguistic concerns.

In general linguistic terms, hyphenation also refers to the use of hyphens to join compound words or phrases.

The typographic decision-making process is handled in several ways.

  1. Algorithms that attempt to make decisions based on a complex series of language-dependent rules. These often use syllabification as a big part of the logic.
  2. Dictionaries that compare the text to a set of predefined logical, weighted word breaks. In software, these can be application-based or operating system wide and can, in most cases, be modified by the user.
  3. A combination of algorithms and dictionaries, most commonly.
  4. Manually applied hyphens and line breaks placed by a typographer to fine tune spacing.
  5. Manually applied discretionary hyphens that the software will resort to as necessary.
  6. A combination of all of the above, in the most demanding typesetting environments.
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