Strategic Hyphenation And Rewriting In Latex For Better Line Breaking

The Hyphenation Problem

LaTeX relies on an algorithm to automatically hyphenate words at the ends of lines as needed to produce visually appealing line breaks. However, the algorithm is not perfect and can sometimes produce awkward or ugly hyphenations that disrupt the reading flow.

Common automatic hyphenation issues include:

  • Hyphenating words that should not be split, like proper nouns
  • Inconsistent hyphenation of the same word on different pages
  • Over-hyphenation that creates too many hyphenated line breaks
  • Hyphenating words at grammatically inappropriate points

To overcome LaTeX's hyphenation flaws, authors have several strategies they can employ:

  1. Manually specify permissible hyphenation points in problematic words using discretionary hyphens
  2. Adjust LaTeX's hyphenation penalty and exception settings to fine-tune behavior
  3. Rewrite paragraphs and sentences to avoid conglomerations of difficult-to-hyphenate words

This article explains when and how to effectively use these hyphenation improvement techniques in LaTeX documents.

Manually Specifying Hyphens

One way to fix poor automatic hyphenations is to manually override LaTeX's algorithm by inserting discretionary hyphens. A discretionary hyphen indicates a point where a word can split across lines if needed but will display unchanged if the word fits on one line.

To add a discretionary hyphen in LaTeX, surround the hyphen with slash marks like \- this. Some examples:

  • Data\-base
  • Al\-gorithm

The benefit of discretionary hyphens is they explicitly tell LaTeX where word breaks are acceptable. This prevents awkward splits like dat\-abase or al\-gorithm.

Using Discretionary Hyphens for Problematic Words

Authors should use discretionary hyphens sparingly, reserving them for words LaTeX consistently hyphenates poorly. Watch for these common cases:

  • Names - Hyphenating names like Mc\-Donald or von \-Neumann looks sloppy.
  • Technical terms - Math and science vocabulary like bio\-metrics should split logically rather than by syllable.
  • Titles - It's jarring when title abbreviations like Dr. or Prof. wrap with hyphens.

By proactively marking such problematic words with discretionary hyphen points, awkward line breaks can be prevented.

When and Where to Place Manual Hyphens

The key with discretionary hyphens is identifying the right hyphen placement points within words. Follow these guidelines:

  • Hyphenate by morpheme - Split words by meaning rather than syllables, e.g. decen\-tralization.
  • Avoid grammatical confusion - Don't hyphenate before suffixes like \-ing, \-ed or \-able.
  • Be consistent - Use the same discretionary hyphen points if a word appears multiple times.

Additionally, limit manual hyphens to one per word and avoid hyphenating excessively short words.

Authors may need to experiment to determine optimal discretionary hyphen placement, considering both readability and visual impact.

Adjusting LaTeX Hyphenation Settings

In addition to manual overrides, LaTeX also provides control parameters to globally tune the automated hyphenation algorithm.

Modifying \hyphenpenalty and \exhyphenpenalty

The main behavior settings are:

  • \hyphenpenalty - The penalty for normal hyphenation.
  • \exhyphenpenalty - The penalty at sentence-ending line breaks.

In plain English, the higher these penalty values, the less LaTeX wants to hyphenate words. The defaults (50 and 50) yield frequent hyphenation. Authors seeking fewer breaks can raise these settings gradually in increments of 10 or 20 points until the desired balance is reached.

For example:


This greatly reduces overall hyphenation frequency but still allows splitting words where necessary to prevent overflowing lines.

Setting Language and Hyphenation Exceptions

Other LaTeX hyphenation parameters authors can adjust include:

  • \language - The document language, which influences hyphenation rules.
  • Hyphenation exception lists - Words that override default patterns.

So authors could enforce English hyphenation guidelines by putting:

\hyphenation{man-u-script semi-con-duc-tor another-long-technical-word}

Setting \language properly prevents inappropriate hyphens in words containing accented or non-English characters. Meanwhile, the hyphenation exception list handles words LaTeX repeatedly mis-hyphenates.

By tuning these values along with discretionary hyphen use, LaTeX's automated hyphenation can be improved greatly.

Rewriting Sentences and Paragraphs

In extreme cases where global hyphenation parameter tweaking is insufficient, manual rewrite at the sentence or paragraph level may be necessary. This requires altering word choice and sentence structure to smooth out clusters of problematic hyphenation scenarios.

Techniques to Improve Line Breaking

When rewriting prose to ameliorate hyphenation issues, authors can employ tactics like:

  • Shortening long convoluted sentences
  • Removing obscure or lengthy words
  • Eliminating redundant phrases
  • Changing passive voice to active

This puts focus on tight, minimal writing with common vocabulary. The result is shorter sentences with easier-to-hyphenate words, significantly improving line break spacing.

Additionally, transition phrases can buffer between denser sections, giving LaTeX more options to find break points. This prevents overflowing lines.

Example Rewrite for Problematic Paragraph

For example, consider the following dense problematic paragraph:

The methodology leverages a decentralized, rapid-prototyped human-in-the-loop approach based on third-wave behavioural economic theory crafted iteratively via quasi-empirical experiments conducted in heterogeneous use-case scenarios to tackle this high-dimensionality challenge.

This lengthy sentence contains difficult word conglomerations likely to result in poor hyphenation. We can rewrite it as:

Our human-centric methodology leverages decentralized rapid prototyping. It applies iterative quasi-experiments grounded in behavioral economics. By testing in diverse use cases, we can address this complex challenge.

The rewrite splits the monster sentence into three manageable sentences. It removes obscure vocabulary and excessive words. This simplified version maintains semantic meaning while also giving LaTeX more hyphenation opportunities.

With similar rewrite procedures applied at a document level, LaTeX can produce excellence line breaks.

Achieving Optimal Line Breaks

Excellent line breaking in LaTeX requires using all strategies in conjunction - discretionary hyphens for occasional problematic words combined with smart parameter tuning and prose polishing via rewrite.

Bringing Together All Line Break Improvement Strategies

Consider this step-by-step approach:

  1. Set base hyphenation penalties to minimize poorly placed breaks
  2. Specify \language appropriately for the document's vocabulary
  3. Use discretionary hyphens for names, titles and technical terms prone to awkward wrapping
  4. Scan for dense sections with clusters of long words and simplify prose to widen possibilities for ideal break points
  5. Add transition phrases if necessary to spread problematic phrases apart

By working methodically through those steps when constructing a manuscript, LaTeX can find line break points which don't sacrifice reading flow or style.

Sample LaTeX Document with Excellent Line Breaks

Consider the following passage optimized via the multi-prong hyphenation approach:

\hyphenation{dis-cre-tion-ary Neural-Network-based}

The \textbf{Neural\-Network\-based} system leverages \textit{dis\-cre\-tion\-ary} data to iteratively self-train. Through this automated closed-loop approach, prediction accuracy improves rapidly without continuous human input required. Given sufficient volumes of quality data, such systems can become incredibly capable at specialized classification tasks.

However, as with any \textbf{machine\-learning} application, real-world performance relies heavily on curating clean properly-labeled training data. ``Garbage in, garbage out'' remains especially true in modern \textbf{AI} systems. Hence, data collection, verification and augmentation strategies are necessary to prevent biased or skewed outputs.

This example demonstrates excellent line breaking control via hyphen inserts at logical morphological points in long technical vocabulary. The spacing between sentences also prevents overflow while maintaining smooth readability.

By leveraging such precision hyphenation guidance, LaTeX can produce beautifully typeset documents without sparse or dense lines that disrupt reading flow.

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