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Soft hyphenation in Pages

Most word processors have an option to automatically hyphenate words that do not completely fit at the end of a line. For example, if the word “character” needs to be split, a hyphen is inserted at the end of the line (“char-”), and the rest of the word (“acter”) continues on the next line. Automatic hyphenation takes care of situations where the position of words move within paragraphs as the result of editing operations. If needed, Word processor applications therefore use sophisticated algorithms or built-in hyphenation tables to find where a word can be split (such as “char-ac-ter”).

Automatic hyphenation works remarkably well in Pages, but there are situations where the automatic algorithm fails. This can happen, for example, when a document contains proper names, brand names, or words in multiple languages. Pages normally guesses the current language, but these guesses do not always work when a single word within a paragraph is written in a different language. For example, consider the phrase “… a character (German: Zeichen) is …”. If the word “Zeichen” appears at the end of the paragraph, Pages tries to apply the English hyphenation rules, which can result in something like:

a character (German: Ze-
ichen) is ….

According to the German rules, the hyphenation should be “Zei-chen”.

So, how can we fix this hyphenation error? One option is to insert a dash or minus sign in the correct location. The problem with this approach is that the word might move to a different location in the text when you insert or delete text in the same paragraph later. Then the word appears with a visible hyphen as “Zei-chen”.

You could also turn hyphenation off for the whole paragraph, but this is probably not what you want. Microsoft Word has a “soft hyphen” option, which inserts an invisible character that is replaced with a visible hyphen only when the word must be split at the end of a line. Unfortunately, Pages does not have such an option.

The good news is that PopChar can help. Unicode defines the character “SOFT HYPHEN” (code point 173), which has exactly the same effect as Word's soft hyphen. You cannot directly type this character, as it does not have a keyboard equivalent in most keyboard layouts. soft-hyphen.png In PopChar, you can find this character in the “Latin-1 Supplement” section, directly before the “registered sign” ®. The character appears as an empty rectangle because it normally does not have a visible representation. To quickly find the character, you can also search for “soft hyphen”. If you need it frequently, you may want to add the character to PopChar's Favorites section (ctrl-click or right-click the character and select “Add to Favorites”).

To insert a soft hyphen, just put the insertion point in the desired location and click the character in the PopChar window. Although it does not have a feature to insert the character, Pages still correctly handles the character if it is present.

BTW, if you write web pages in native HTML, you can also use PopChar to insert the corresponding HTML entity “­”. Of course, you could simply type that, but with PopChar, you don't need to remember the abbreviation.