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Desktop publishing: Spanish hyphenation

5/19/2011 by Susana Schultz

In any language, hyphenation is based on separating syllables and about fifty percent of the time, syllables separate differently in Spanish then they do in English. There are no quick and easy rules to teach a non-Spanish speaking person how to separate syllables in Spanish. This is something we learn in school with years of applied practice.

One of the biggest issues we see in the Spanish translation business is when our clients are publishing the Spanish translation using a desktop publishing software like InDesign and they need to hyphenate the document. The InDesign technician generally uses the default hyphenation which hyphenates words following the English syllable formation. When the Spanish translated proofing document gets back to us and we see a hyphenated document, we know that there will be a lot of corrections.

A lot of English InDesign technicians who don’t work with Spanish translations are not aware that it is very easy to set InDesign to hyphenate following Spanish rules. All they have to do is to set up the default dictionary for that document to Spanish and the hyphenation is done in Spanish. To get to the dictionary, go to Edit/Spelling/Dictionary/Spanish. Microsoft Word does not hyphenate as a default so there are no issues there but if the client needs to hyphenate, all that has to be done is change the dictionary to Spanish.

When delivering Spanish translations that we know will be placed in desktop publishing software we always advice our clients to either turn hyphenation off or change the dictionary to Spanish. That is an easy fix that saves everyone a lot of time.

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