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HTML soft hyphen (wbr> vs. ­)


How do you deal with the issue of soft hyphens on your website? There may be long words in a text that you want to line break with a hyphen. However, if the entire word is on the same line, you don’t want the hyphen to show.

wbr> is a non-standard “tag soup invented by Netscape,” according to comments on this page. It appears that ­ is having issues with standard compliance as well. There appears to be no way to create a solution that works across all browsers.

Which method do you use to handle soft hyphens, and why did you chose that one? Is there a preferred or best practice solution?

Asked by Pontus

Solution #1

Unfortunately, ­’s support is so inconsistent between browsers that it can’t really be used.

Right now, there’s no good way to use soft hyphens in HTML, according to QuirksMode. Examine your options for surviving without them.

­ now works/is supported on all major browsers, according to QuirksMode.

Answered by Marco

Solution #2

They all perform admirably, but ­ takes the lead since Google can still index words that contain it.

Here are some samples of unique terms with soft hyphens for current live testing.

donfounbabblwbr>icationwbr>ism wbr> wbr/> is removed from the output on this site. For testing, here’s a snippet.

Here they are, without the shy hyphens (for copying and pasting into find-on-page testing; written in a way that will not break the search engine tests):


Success: it appears as a normal word except where it should break, which it does when it breaks and hyphenates in the stated location.

Failure is defined as an unexpected display or a failure to break in the anticipated location.

Success: copying and pasting the entire word without any hyphens. (Paste into browser search on Mac, MS Word 2011, and Sublime Text)

Pasting with a hyphen, space, line break, or trash characters is a fail.

In November 2017, the information was updated. wbr> StackOverflow’s CMS stripped it away, thus it hasn’t been tried.

This page is found by searching for the entire, non-hyphenated term.

Failure: Search engines only locate this page when they look for broken word fragments or hyphenated words.

As a search engine match, success and failure.

Answered by user56reinstatemonica8

Solution #3

In CSS3, there is now an effort to standardize hyphenation.

This is already supported by some current browsers, including Safari and Firefox. A solid and up-to-date resource on browser support may be found here.

That would be the ideal solution once CSS hyphenation is universally enabled. In the interim, I can recommend Hyphenator, a JS script that determines how to hyphenate your text in the best way possible for each browser.


I’ve tried it and it’s fantastic!

Answered by Dominik

Solution #4

I use ­, which I manually input when necessary.

I always think it’s a shame that people don’t use techniques because some—possibly outdated or strange—browser doesn’t handle them the way they’re supposed to. I discovered that ­ works fine in both recent versions of Internet Explorer and Firefox, so that should suffice. If people come around with an odd browser, you may include a browser check instructing them to use something adult or continue at their own risk.

Syllabification isn’t simple, and I wouldn’t trust it to some Javascript. If you don’t want your content to become irritating, it’s a language-specific topic that should be thoroughly revised by the deskman. Some languages, such as German, create complex words, which might cause breakdown issues. Spargelder (germ. saved money, pl.) can, for example, be wrapped in two locations according to syllabification requirements (Spar-gel-der). Wrapping it in the second place, on the other hand, causes the first portion to appear as Spargel- (germ. asparagus), which activates a wholly incorrect concept in the reader’s mind and should be avoided.

What about the Wachstube string? It could mean ‘guardroom’ (Wach-stu-be) or ‘wax tube’ (Wach-stu-be) (Wachs-tu-be). There are likely to be more examples in other languages as well. You should strive to create an environment in which the deskman may be assisted in writing a well-syllabified document, with each essential word proofread.

Answered by Matthias Ronge

Solution #5

It’s critical to remember that wbr> and ­ are not supposed to do the same thing in HTML5!

Soft hyphens

­ is a soft hyphen, i.e., U+00AD: SOFT HYPHEN. As an example,


could be seen as


or as


Soft hyphens are currently supported by Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer.

The wbr element

The wbr element is a word-break opportunity, and if a line break occurs, it will not display a hyphen. As an example,


could be seen as


or as


This element is currently supported by Firefox and Chrome.

Answered by Andreas Rejbrand

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