“Typography is the craft of endowing human language

with a durable visual form.”

Robert Bringhurst

The Elements of Typographic Style

Book Design

Part 2 – Hyphenation and justification (H&J)


The vast majority of books, especially text only ones, are set with justified text. In other words, the text lines up on the right side of the page as well as the left, except for the last line of the paragraph. The first line is usually indented from the left margin as well. Hyphenation is needed to avoid ugly spacing though I prefer to keep hyphenation to a minimum.


These are the default settings in InDesign for hyphenation and justification:

I have never set anything using these settings! A block of text may well be perfectly spaced but the hyphenation could make it look odd. Accordingly, I have adjusted these settings – my default is as follows but further adjustment may be needed depending on the font used:

Occasionally, these settings may still lead to some odd spacing but I would then use discretionary hyphens, and/or move the slider back towards the middle between ‘Better Spacing’ and ‘Fewer Hyphens’ on an affected paragraph, and/or revise the justification settings.


The samples below show the effect of the adjustment on some text, using Adobe Garamond Pro at 11.5/15pt.


With the InDesign default settings:

With the revised settings:

Both samples use the Adobe Paragraph composer, as opposed to Single Line composer, which means that InDesign calculates the best spacing for the paragraph as a whole. Certainly, the hyphenation looks rather clumsy in the first sample.


In summary, I prefer:

  • To hyphenate only longer words
  • Not to have consecutive hyphens in a paragraph
  • Not to hyphenate the last word in a paragraph
  • Not to hyphenate capitalized words (though I may occasionally use a discretionary hyphen for these)
  • To reduce the variation on word spacing
  • To allow InDesign a tiny bit of flexibility on the letter spacing – especially in tight columns
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© Catherine Williams, Chapter One Book Production