Hyphenation and line breaks

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You can specify how words and lines break by adjusting hyphenation settings automatically, or by using the hyphenation dictionary.

Illustrator uses the same composition methods for line and word breaks that is used in Adobe InDesign. For more information on using these features, see web Help.

Adjust hyphenation automatically

The settings you choose for hyphenation affect the horizontal spacing of lines and the aesthetic appeal of type on a page. Hyphenation options determine whether words can be hyphenated and, if so, what breaks are allowable.

  1. To use automatic hyphenation, do any of the following:
    • To turn automatic hyphenation on or off, select or deselect the Hyphenate option in the Paragraph panel.

    • To apply hyphenation to specific paragraphs, first select only the paragraphs that you want to affect.

    • To choose a hyphenation dictionary, choose a language from the Language menu at the bottom of the Character panel.

  2. To specify options, choose Hyphenation from the Paragraph panel menu, and specify the following options:

    Words Longer Than _ Letters

    Specifies the minimum number of characters for hyphenated words.

    After First _ Letters And Before Last _ Letters

    Specifies the minimum number of characters at the beginning or end of a word that can be broken by a hyphen. For example, by specifying 3 for these values, aromatic would be hyphenated as aro‑ matic instead of ar‑ omatic or aromat‑ ic.

    Hyphen Limit

    Specifies the maximum number of consecutive lines on which hyphenation may occur. Zero means unlimited consecutive hyphens are allowed at ends of lines.

    Hyphenation Zone

    Specifies a distance from the right edge of a paragraph, demarcating a portion of the line where hyphenation is not allowed. A setting of 0 allows all hyphenation. This option applies only when you use the Adobe Single-line Composer.

    Hyphenate Capitalized Words

    Select to prevent capitalize words from being hyphenated.


Hyphenation settings apply only to Roman characters; double‑byte characters available in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean fonts are not affected by these settings.

Use the hyphenation dictionary

Illustrator uses Proximity language dictionaries to determine when to hyphenate words. These dictionaries let you specify a different language for as little as a single character of text. You can select a default dictionary and customize the dictionary in the Preferences dialog box.

  1. Choose Edit > Preferences > Hyphenation (Windows) or Illustrator > Preferences > Hyphenation (Mac OS).
  2. Do any of the following:
    • To choose a default hyphenation dictionary, select an option for Default Language, and click OK.

    • To add a word to the exceptions list, type the word in the New Entry box, and click Add.

    • To remove a word from the exceptions list, select the word, and click Delete.

Prevent words from breaking

You can prevent words from breaking at the end of lines—for example, proper names or words that could be misread when hyphenated. You can also keep multiple words or groups of words together—for example, clusters of initials and a last name.

  1. Select the characters you want to prevent from breaking.
  2. Choose No Break from the Character panel menu.

    If you apply the No Break option to too many adjacent characters, the text may wrap in the middle of a word. However, if you apply the No Break option to more than a single line of text, none of the text will appear.

Composition methods

The appearance of type on the page depends on a complex interaction of processes called composition. Using the word spacing, letterspacing, glyph spacing, and hyphenation options you’ve selected, Adobe applications evaluate possible line breaks and choose the one that best supports the specified parameters.

You can choose between two composition methods: the Adobe Every‑line Composer and the Adobe Single‑line Composer. Both methods evaluate possible breaks and choose the one that best supports the hyphenation and justification options you’ve specified for a given paragraph. The composition method affects only the selected paragraph or paragraphs, so you can easily set different composition methods for different paragraphs.

Every‑line Composer

The Every‑line Composer considers a network of break points for a range of lines and thus can optimize earlier lines in the paragraph in order to eliminate especially unattractive breaks later on.

The Every‑line Composer approaches composition by identifying possible break points, evaluating them, and assigning a weighted penalty based on the following principles:

  • For left-, right-, or center-aligned text, lines that fall closer to the right side are favored and have a lower penalty.

  • For justified text, the highest importance is given to evenness of letter and word spacing.

  • Hyphenation is avoided when possible.

Single-line Composer

The Single-line composer offers a traditional approach to composing type one line at a time. This option is useful if you want manual control over how lines break. The Single‑line Composer uses the following principles when considering a breakpoint:

  • Longer lines are favored over shorter lines.

  • In justified text, compressed or expanded word spacing is preferable to hyphenation.

  • In nonjustified text, hyphenation is preferable to compressed or expanded letterspacing.

  • If spacing must be adjusted, compression is better than expansion.

    To choose one of these methods, select it from the Paragraph panel menu. To apply the method to all paragraphs, first select the type object; to apply the method to the current paragraph only, first insert the cursor in that paragraph.

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