I'm not sure if there are any typography gurus here that might be able to answer this question, but I don't know where else to look. I'm looking to add text hyphenation into one of my projects, and after doing some research, there are a few curious points I am unable to connect. I want to know when and when not to use hyphenation, and if screen width is a major factor in this decision.

I'm curious as to why in Apple's iOS Safari "Reader" feature (where you tap the Reader button and it converts any web page into a nicely formatted reading friendly page), they do not use hyphenation on the iPhone, but use hyphenation on the iPad Safari Reader. So on the iPhone, they do use hyphenation in the iPhone iBooks app, but do not in the reader app (so I'm unsure as to if this has anything to do with screen width.

iPhone Reader in Safari (no hyphenation):

enter image description here

iPhone iBooks (hyphenation):

enter image description here

iPad Reader in Safari (hyphenation):

iPad Reader in Safari

  • If you are adding hyphenation to something, please for the love of little green apples fix it so that the MINIMUM before or after a hyphen is three characters. A two-character syllable on the end of a line is like nails on a chalkboard. Commented Jun 16, 2012 at 23:19
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    If you can ensure a good line width (10-15 words average), then I think hyphenation detracts from the reading experience. Hyphenation is good for narrow columns, horrible everywhere else, in my opinion. Commented Jun 17, 2012 at 0:54
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    Unless you're talking about justified text. Justified text really must have hyphens, or the rivers of white stand out painfully. Commented Jun 17, 2012 at 16:56
  • I would think that with the limited screen width on the iPhone, justifying and using hyphens would reduce fatigue, by letting the reader's eyes perform fewer saccades to read the same length. Look at the iPhone Kindle app for instance. This is a small detail to fix, but a major discrepancy on Apple's part.
    – Vickash
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 16:00
  • @Lauren Ipsum I'd recommend against justified text, too. But that's definitely my own opinion. Others may disagree. “justifying and using hyphens would reduce fatigue” — I'd say the opposite. Ragged lines give the brain patterns to lock onto. Commented Oct 20, 2012 at 7:01

1 Answer 1


Short: If you don't know when to use hyphenation, it's best to let whatever program you're using decide on the hyphenation.

Every single one of your images comes from different screen widths. iPhone tries to pretend to be a desktop on many occasions, but there are limitations. iPad, on the other hand, has greater leash.

For mobile Safari it supports things like text-align: justify and ­. Again, if you don't know where to put your ­ it's best to not use them. You can also adjust your line-spacing to whatever you like. This will get you close to where you want to be. Otherwise, if you're a perfectionist, you will have to go through and manually place your ­ in there. Make sure you watch for Widows and Orphans as Lauren mentioned above.

For mobile, I don't know if the following work, but you can try or look it up:

word-break: hyphenate;

-webkit-hyphens: auto;

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