Hyphenation on Web Application Pages?

Subject: Hyphenation on Web Application Pages?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L Writing <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Pro TechWriter <pro -dot- techwriter -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 14 Jul 2009 16:54:13 -0400

Pro TechWriter wondered: <<We have a dilemma... The text is in a
rather narrow column down the side of the page, and some of it is
hyphenated (and hyphenated at the first two characters). I have
noticed recently that some of the twenty- and thirty-somethings around
here have some trouble reading hyphenated words in text.>>

Well, the "rather narrow column" is a problem all on its own, but
that's not the question you asked. It's worthwhile noting that it's
not just the young folk who have trouble with amateurish hyphenation
at the right margin: everyone will have this problem to a greater or
lesser extent, but the younger folk may just be more willing to
complain about it. Or they may encounter it more frequently if they
tweak their browsers more than older folk in your group.

<<This got me thinking. I could think of very few examples of
hyphenated text in columns in recent articles. It is rare even in our
local newspaper. I think we should not hyphenate the text in the
browser window, but I don't have any hard evidence to support this,
just watching people try to read it.>>

The complaints you have recorded are pretty much the best hard data
you should need, but if you want to demonstrate why the hyphenation is
bad, open the display in the browser of your choice and enlarge the
font size (perhaps by using the browser feature that lets you override
the default style sheet or even just hitting the scroll wheel or the
keyboard shortcut to enlarge the text or even setting the minimum font
size in your browser preferences). Watch what happens to the hyphens
at the right margin: magically, they suddenly end up liberally
sprinkled throughout the middles of the lines, where they make
absolutely no sense.

Note that the hyphenation may also violate the ADA act, Section 508 (http://www.section508.gov/
). I imagine that manual hyphenation will royally screw up most
screenreader software. That's probably not a good thing.

Geoff Hart (www.geoff-hart.com)
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
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Hyphenation on Web Application Pages: From: Pro TechWriter

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