A Guide to Word Division

Guidelines for dividing words at the end of lines are:

  • Pay attention to the way the word is pronounced – its syllables — and do not break the word so that it would be mispronounced or misunderstood. Check a dictionary if you are unsure of the syllable breaks.
  • Divide between doubled consonants, except when it would divide a simple base form, e.g. re-com-men-da-tion, but sell-ing, buzz-er.
  • Do not divide a one-syllable word, even if there is an inflected ending like ‘-ed’, e.g. spelled, bummed.
  • Do not divide a word so that one or two letters is left either at the end of one line or the beginning of another. Division after a prefix of three or more letters is permissible.
  • Do not divide words of six letters or less.
  • Divided hyphenated words at the hyphen.
  • Do not divide before the following suffixes; they should not be at the beginning of a line alone nor should they be divided themselves: -able, -ceous, -cial, -cion, -cious, -geous, -gion, -gious, -ible, -sial, -sion, -tial, -tion, -tious.
  • When a vowel alone forms a syllable in the middle of a word, keep it with the previous syllable, e.g. physi-cal.
  • A liquid or silent ‘l’ syllable at the end of a word or part of an inflected ending should not be put on the next line alone, e.g. read-able, twin-kling.
  • Proper nouns, contractions, initialisms, numerals, and abbreviations should not be divided.
  • Do not leave a syllable at the end of a line that might be read as a complete word.
  • Please note that both the MLA and APA style manuals now discourage breaking words at the end of lines. If you are using a computer, the word-wrap feature will eliminate most end-of-line divisions. Some word processing programs offer automatic hyphenation.


  1. Gyorgy Abelovszky -  August 24, 2016 - 4:57 am

    Please help me if you can:
    How would you divide the world PERFORMANCES at the very end? Is PERFORMANC-ES
    Thank you in advance,

  2. Jean Velly -  March 17, 2016 - 11:43 am

    You say “Do not divide before the following suffixes” and include “-able” in the list that follows. But in another bullet point, you show “readable” divided this way: “read-able.”

    This seems like a contradiction. Or am I missing something?

    • Bob Brower -  March 25, 2016 - 10:56 am

      The suffix “-able,” in the second instance is an example of what should not be done; it is not an example of how you should break the word.


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