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Division of Words at the End of a Line

Learners of English should avoid dividing words at the end of a line, especially in formal writing,
such as business correspondence, resumes, examination papers, and essays. Division of words at
the end of a line makes the text more difficult to read, and the divided words may look strange and
may even cause wrong associations. Besides, it is very difficult to syllabify English words correctly.
If you need to divide a word at the end of a line, it should be done according to the rules of
syllabification (also called syllabication), that is, division of words into syllables. It is best of all to use
syllabification indicated in a good dictionary. If your dictionary does not show word division, consult
online dictionaries, for example, Merriam-Webster Online.
Keep in mind that there are differences between British and American syllabification. Syllabification
in this material is shown according to the norms of dividing words at the end of lines in American
Most English words are syllabified according to pronunciation: a-fraid, be-tween, lov-er, cov-er, clo-
ver, i-de-a, id-i-om, ra-di-a-tor, rad-i-cal, po-ta-to, pop-u-lar, com-pat-i-ble, crim-i-nal, ta-ble.
Differences in pronunciation (stressed or unstressed syllable, shift of stress, long or short vowel
sound) are reflected in numerous differences in the syllabification of words with similar spelling.
Examples: fin-ish, fi-nal; fin-ger, sing-er; riv-er, fla-vor; fa-ther, moth-er; forc-ing, for-ci-ble; re-sist-i-
ble, re-sis-tive; re-spon-si-ble, re-spon-sive; vis-i-ble, vi-sion; op-por-tu-ni-ty, ca-pac-i-ty, cit-y.
Many English words can be divided into syllables according to derivation, that is, between the prefix,
root, and suffix (if such division does not change the pronunciation of the word): friend-ship, de-part-
ment, dis-turb-ance, use-less-ness, for-get-ful, ac-count-a-ble, mis-lead-ing, aw-ful-ly, con-se-quent-
Not every border between syllables is an appropriate point at which to divide a word at the end of a
line. It is best of all to restructure your sentences and to do without word breaks. In the few cases
where the division of a word is really necessary, use the syllabification indicated in the dictionary.
Additionally, apply the rules and recommendations described below.
General rules and recommendations
Do not divide words in titles. Do not break the last word in a paragraph. Do not divide words so that
the second part of the word is carried over to the next page. Try not to divide more than two or three
words on one page.
Do not divide abbreviations, acronyms, e-mail addresses and URL addresses, telephone numbers,
and large numbers written in figures. Avoid breaking proper names, especially people's names and
surnames. Avoid dividing short words.
The hyphen is used only after the first part of the divided word at the end of the line. If the word
already has a hyphen, divide it only at the hyphen: anti-inflationary, pre-Christian, self-confident,
The rules are complicated and difficult to use, except in very simple cases. The rules do not cover all
possible cases of word division, and in some cases the rules are not applicable. It is sometimes
necessary to apply several rules to divide a word correctly.
The hyphen in the words below indicates an appropriate place where a break between syllables can
be made if you need to divide such words at the end of a line. Of course, the words below are
written as single words (without a hyphen) in normal texts.
Short words should not be divided at the end of a line. Short words are given here only as examples
illustrating the rules of syllabification and word division and only because I didn't find a sufficient
number of appropriate longer words at the time of writing this article.
Main rules for the division of words at the end of a line
Never divide one-syllable words, including words with the ending ED: course, source, cause,
through, draught, bought; liked, burned, played, tired, mowed, drowned, grouped, stopped, watched,
Never divide words so that only one letter stands at the end or beginning of a line. Examples of two-
syllable words that should not be broken: about, along, away, abridged, elect, enough, snowy, hairy,
It is advisable not to leave only two letters of the word at the end of a line and not to carry over only
two letters to the beginning of the next line. Try to divide so that there are minimum three letters
before or after the hyphen. Examples of two-syllable and three-syllable words that should not be
divided: kitchen, hobby, worker, answer, flower, retell, receive, account, affirm, inquire, belong,
because, between, invite, include, painted, crowded, catches; easily, informer, video, radio, radial,
Never divide vowels in diphthongs (a diphthong represents one vowel sound and forms one syllable)
and never divide a vowel combination that represents one sound. Examples of words that should not
be divided at the end of a line: clown, count, plough, though, load, pain, height; broom, heart, broad.
Never divide consonant combinations (and combinations of consonants with vowels) that represent
one sound, such as ch, tch, dge, sh, th, ck, gh, ph, ng, gu, qu, que. Examples of division: match-ing,
knowledge-able, breath-ing, pack-age, laugh-ter, daugh-ter, trium-phant, hang-ing, sing-ing, lin-guist,
lin-guis-tics, lan-guage.
Divide words between the prefix and the root or between the root and the suffix if these parts consist
of three or more letters and form a syllable, and if such division does not contradict the syllabification
shown in the dictionary. Examples of division: com-bine, argu-ment, cour-age, law-yer, play-ful, con-
sist-ing, over-whelm-ing, fan-tas-tic, pre-dict-able, for-give-ness, dis-trust-ful-ness, dis-turb-ance,
mis-under-stand-ing, over-estima-tion, com-mit-ment, sub-mis-sive, super-intend-ency.
If there are several possible variants of division, divide between the root and the suffix: unpredict-
able, respect-ful, educa-tional, revolu-tionary, deliver-ance, depart-ment, memoriza-tion, experi-
ence, signa-ture, unselfish-ness.
If possible (if the break does not affect the pronunciation of the word), divide words after the vowel
that forms a syllable alone (or with the preceding consonant) in the middle of a word. Examples of
division: crimi-nal, criti-cism, prepara-tory, litera-ture, irrele-vant, signifi-cance, opportu-nity, popu-lar,
popula-tion, experi-ment, experi-ence, resi-dence, coinci-dence.
The consonant letter between two vowels stays before the hyphen if the preceding vowel is short:
unlim-ited, pov-erty, mod-ern. If the preceding vowel is long (or a diphthong), the consonant is
carried over to the next line with the second vowel: rea-son, poi-son, fla-vor, pow-der, thou-sand.
Double consonants can be divided at the end of a line: ban-ner (but pass-er), god-dess, lit-tle, puz-
zle, car-riage, hap-pen, suf-fix, get-ting, mis-sion, mes-sage, pas-sen-ger, excel-lent, incor-rect, bal-
loon, hor-rible, mil-len-nium.
Two consonants between two vowels can be divided if the first consonant ends the syllable, and the
second consonant begins the syllable: bor-der, lin-ger, mas-ter, blis-ter, fil-ter, bur-den, car-pet, ban-
quet, wor-ship, cor-vette, recog-nize, expen-sive, collec-tive, respec-tive.
Three consonants can be divided after the first consonant if the vowel before it is short, but check
the dictionary. Examples of division: chil-dren, coun-try, hun-gry, mon-grel, han-dle, han-dler, scram-
ble, scram-bler, mon-ster, mon-strous, demon-strate, frus-trate. But: child-less, hand-some, monk-
hood, punc-ture.
The ending ING in gerunds and present participles can be carried over to the next line in most
cases: read-ing, writ-ing, divid-ing, deny-ing, judg-ing, manag-ing, notic-ing, forc-ing, turn-ing, hurt-
ing, hold-ing, find-ing. If there are double consonants before ING, one of them is carried over with
ING if the break does not separate the consonant from the root: split-ting, swim-ming, refer-ring. But:
spell-ing, call-ing, process-ing.
If the word ends in LING, check the dictionary, as there may be surprises. Examples of division: dar-
ling, duck-ling, nest-ling (noun), nes-tling (gerund or present participle, from nes-tle), han-dling, bus-
tling, scram-bling, stum-bling. Note: Mute letter "t" in the verbs "nestle, bustle" and in their verbal
forms "nestled, nestling; bustled, bustling".
It is advisable not to divide (that is, you should carry them over in full) the following suffixes and
terminal parts of words: tion, sion, cion, gion, cial, sial, tial, cious, geous, tious, able, ible. Examples
of division: condi-tion, selec-tion, exten-sion, discus-sion, suspi-cion, reli-gion, spe-cial, commer-cial,
essen-tial, deli-cious, subcon-scious, gor-geous, ambi-tious, cau-tious, reli-able, accept-able,
manage-able, incred-ible, resist-ible, respon-sible, incorri-gible.
Compound words should be divided between their component parts: auto-mobile, after-noon, ball-
room, photo-graph, tele-vision, psycho-therapy. If a compound word has its own hyphen, divide it
only at the hyphen: attorney-general, great-grandfather, self-confident, nineteen-eighties.
.-. It’s a go!