Hyphenation rules (rec-ommendation?)

Can you recommend me a good source of hyphenation rules in English? Something that would begin with explaining how words are divided into syllables, which I am not entirely sure about.

For example, intuitively, I would split “recommendation” as re-commendation and “compare” as com-pare; however, a machine (which probably should know it) says, rec-ommendation and com-pare.

Is rec-ommendation correct at all? If yes, why?

By googling, I found the “maximal onset principle” saying that the second syllable grabs as many consonants as possible, as long as an English word can begin like this, so using that principle, it should be re-commendation. Additionally, it would make sense to have a break after a prefix, and re- is a prefix. (An unnecessary one in this word, as Latin ‘commendatio’ means ‘recommendation’, but it is still a prefix.) By that rule (I don’t know if it is a rule in English, though), it would be, again, re-commendation. So why is rec-ommendation recommended in several sources, e.g.,


(I’m happy with com-pare as it would be difficult to imagine an English word starting with mp-. In addition, com seems like a prefix, although I am not sure if it is thought of as a prefix in English.)

Thanks for any com-


Hyphenation is hard! The folks over at TeX stack exchange know about how to teach a computer how to hyphenate. There an answer notes:

Fowler’s Modern English Usage, is a standard style guide for [British] English published by the Oxford University Press. Fowler says of hyphenation that:

The problems of hyphenation at the line-end are compounded in newspapers by the narrowness of the columns and the customary assumption in most printing that the right-hand margin, like the left-hand one, should be straight (or ‘justified’). Who has not encountered bad end-of-line breaks like c-/hanging, mans-/laughter, rear-/ranged? […]

It is usually best to divide a word after a vowel, taking over the following constant to the next line. In present participles take over -ing, e.g., divid-/ing, sound-/ing; but chuck-/ling, trick-/ling, and similar words. Generally, when two consonants or vowels come together one should divide between them, e.g. splen-/dour, appreci-/ate. Terminations such as -cian, -sion, and -tion should not be divided when forming one sound: divide as Gre-/cian, ascen-/sion, subtrac-/tion. Hyphened words should be divided at the hyphen, and in dictionaries a second hyphen may be used to clarify their spelling. This is not the end of the story: Ronald McIntosh lists thirty-three rules altogether for dividing words at the line-end. […]

Very broadly, British practice has tended to emphasise morphological structure and word origin (as in triumph-/ant), and American practice has tended to give greater weight to the perceived pronunciation (c.f. trium-/phant).

Applying these rules would suggest splitting re-com-mend-a-tion, for a British publication, but perhaps rec-om-men-da-tion for US English. One factor to consider here is to distinguish between “recommendation” and “re-commendation” (ie to “commend again”). I don’t think there would be any actual ambiguity, but it could disturb the flow of the reader.

Source : Link , Question Author : lebatsnok , Answer Author : James K

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