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Words Hyphenating Wrong in InDesign


P.G. wrote:

I am proofing an InDesign document, and it has some awful hyphenations. For example, I’ve just run across bir-thday, war-ning, and alt-hough! Why is InDesign hyphenating those words wrong?

This is a tricky one, but here’s my theory: I’m guessing that the Language setting is wrong for that text. Remember that language is a character attribute (every word — even each character — can have its own language), but it may be set incorrectly in the paragraph style.

When I try setting the words you mentioned to Spanish, they hyphenates the way you describe. Similarly, when I apply the German language to the word darkness it hyphenates dar-kness.

[Update: I asked P.G. about this, and he confirmed that indeed, this was the problem… though in some cases the language had changed to Norwegian.]

Two more posts on language:

Hope that helps!

David Blatner is the co-founder of the Creative Publishing Network, InDesign Magazine, CreativePro Magazine, and the author or co-author of 15 books, including Real World InDesign. His InDesign videos at LinkedIn Learning ( are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. [addbr]You can find more about David at[addbr]Follow on LinkedIn here
  • One of my client has got a similar problem, but it’s not the same reason.

    InDesign’s Proximity or Hunspell dictionnaires don’t hyphenate the same way The Oxford English Dictionary says it should (in US and UK English). But I can’t find a dictionary I could add in ID. Is there a resource or website where I can find different dictionaries for ID?

    The only solution I see is to type a custom dictionary (with custom hyphenation…), and I’m not looking forward to it!

  • If the language is set wrong in paragraph styles, shouldn’t ID be flagging the spelling of almost every word wrong? Perhaps these people have Dynamic Spelling turned off.

    Also, to possibly stir up a hornet’s nest, is Hunspell really good enough it should be so widely used?

    Spelling isn’t usually that big an issue with ID for me, since the text is almost done when I import it. But OS X uses Hunspell too and thus it ends up in a host of Mac apps. I’m continually disgusted (as in several times a day) with how poorly it is at offering alternatives. I’ve seen cases where simply transposing two letters leaves it baffled. About a third the time, it offers me no alternatives. And yes, I’m not the world’s greatest speller.

    On the other hand, if I cut and paste that same word into a Google search, some 98% of the time it not only comes up with the right spelling, it only needs to give me one option to get it right. I’ve often thought that my most-wanted OS X add-on would be a Control-Click to “Get Spelling from Google.” If it hasn’t already, maybe Google should add returning spelling possibilities to its API.

    Maybe I’m being cynical, but it seems to me that Apple, Adobe and others have used Hunspell as an excuse to spend little or nothing to improve their spell checking and hyphenation. If they’re using it, they should be devoted some time and money to improving it–particularly cash-rich Apple? After all, these improvements only need to be done once.

    And if you’re look for a good ID Secrets show topic, spell-checking and hyphenation would be an excellent one.

    And you might want to bring up, as I have with Adobe, the need for document-specific and project-specific dictionaries. I sometimes have books I’m working on that have special spelling just for them. I don’t want to pollute my user dictionary with those odd spellings forever.

    • Robin Sherman says:

      The spell check, dictionary functions, hyphenation, Adobe paragraph composition function, and even the discretionary hyphen works extremely poorly in InDesign CS 6 and earlier. I don’t know about CC and hope I won’t ever have to find out.

      For these functions, I’ll take Quark any day, not that it is perfect either, but it is better.

      Just shameful.

      • Deb says:

        I am using CC, and the same problem exists–the reason why I am reading the comment thread.

  • Another issue that can affect hyphenation is adding unknown words to a user dictionary. Check the way InDesign wants to hyphenate any multi-syllable word before adding it to the user dictionary. To do this when spell checking, click on the Dictionary button; then in the new dialog box click on the Hyphenation button (you may have to click in on the word first); then add one, two, or three tildes to represent hyphenation points (one being the most desirable, three being acceptable but only if needed).

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