Hyphenation -- good research into reading speed and comprehension?

Subject: Hyphenation -- good research into reading speed and comprehension?
From: JX Consulting <JX -at- jxconsulting -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 13 Nov 2009 22:17:04 -0800


Is there any good research into reading speed and comprehension of
unhyphenated English versus hyphenated English? I just mean
hyphenation due to end of line, not about words with naturally having
hyphens whereever they appear on the line :-)

I'm skeptical about hyphenation of technical documentation. Maybe I'm
wired differently than other folks, but it seems to hinder
comprehension and reading speed, as well as look distracting. Yeah, I
get it that lines can be more "full looking", but that's not even
necessarily more aesthetically pleasing. And for documentation, we're
optimizing for people actually reading it, especially quickly, and
learning quickly. And it doesn't seem worth it to me to hyphenate if
that's what we're going for.

From what I've read online**, the hyphenation of words for line
length was originally just an artifact of the physical limitations of
old moveable type presses, and just got carried over into the future
from there.

I want to know the facts on this. Is there any reputable research
about the actual reading of hyphenated English? I am curious about
various types of data: (1) neurotypical folks -- the general
population (2) dyslexic populations (3) and of course folks leaning
towards Aspergers - people more likely to be readers of our technical
docs. :-)

Thanks for any good tips!

-- JX Bell
Technical Communication Consultant
JX Consulting


*** According to wikipedia, "Prior to Gutenberg setting the first
lines printed in the Western world with movable type, there was no
need for hyphens or the justification of lines to equal length. The
Gutenberg printing press required words made up of individual letters
of type to be held in place by a surrounding non-printing rigid frame.
Gutenberg solved the problem of making each line the same length to
fit the frame by inserting a hyphen as the last element at the right
side margin. This interrupted the letters in the last word, requiring
the remaining letters be carried over to the start of the line
below..." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyphenation



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