Writing Portfolio

Discretionary Line Breaks

Published By: InDesignSecrets.com
Credit: Byline
Canonical URL

There are so many new fea­tures in InDesign CS3 that it’s easy to lose track of some of them. One I’d like to draw your atten­tion to is the new dis­cre­tionary line break.

Like a dis­cre­tionary hyphen, the dis­cre­tionary line break (“DLB” from here on out) finess­es where and how InDesign breaks a line of text if that line must be bro­ken and wrapped. The dif­fer­ence between the two is that the for­mer, the dis­cre­tionary hyphen, breaks with a hyphen while a DLB just breaks, sans hyphen.

DLBs are use­ful as occa­sion­al sub­sti­tutes for man­u­al line breaks or soft returns. When you insert a man­u­al line break with Shift+Return/Shift+Enter, you force a line of text to break and wrap to the next line. The ini­tial effect between the two is iden­ti­cal. However, should your text reflow, a man­u­al line break will not auto­mat­i­cal­ly roll back up; you could be left with awk­ward breaks in the mid­dle or even begin­ning of a line. By con­trast, a DLB has no effect unless it approach­es the end of a line; if your text reflows such that the DLB is not close to the end of a line, the DLB-created break becomes inert again and the line doesn’t break at that point.

When would you use it? Well, in episode 60 of the InDesign Secrets Podcast Anne-Marie pro­vides a per­fect exam­ple: URLs. Left to its own devices, InDesign will break a URL wher­ev­er is con­ve­nient and with a hyphen. Sticking a hyphen arbi­trar­i­ly into a URL isn’t the best idea because read­ers may not real­ize the hyphen isn’t an intend­ed part of the URL.

InDesign can break text awkwardly with a hyphen (above), but a discretionary line break prevents the insertion of superfluous hyphens (below).

InDesign can break text awk­ward­ly with a hyphen (above), but a dis­cre­tionary line break pre­vents the inser­tion of super­flu­ous hyphens (below).