Elimination of lyric hyphens in tight spacing?

Hi all,

In tight spacing, a good practice is to eliminate lyric hyphens entirely, setting words as they’d appear in a book. Doing this in Dorico is a little clumsy. The type-of-syllable (beginning / middle / end / whole word) attribute is clever, but requires a lot of manual work, which has to be altered manually if spacing changes.

What are people’s solutions to this?

P.S. In case it’s not obvious, I’m trying to hint at a feature request for a threshold beyond which lyric hyphens would be removed automatically and syllables would be joined with no whitespace between them.

I just replace the hyphen with a spacebar stroke, and adjust the syllables in engrave mode so they appear joined.

In tight music, engrave manual edits are mandatory anyways.

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When I’m sure I want no hyphens in Dorico (or Sibelius), I attach the whole word to the first note, aligned left. Often it needs to be shifted left slightly to make the underlay look right.

The thing about this very longstanding issue is that where a hyphen is suppressed (as Finale and Sibelius have always been able to do) the spacing must be exactly as if there is nothing between the syllables. And nobody has invented an algorithm to produce that yet.


I know that Dan deals in very tight layouts, but my Note Spacing default is 3 and 1/8 – so quite tight – and I very rarely run into this problem. I have adjusted the Engraving Options for hyphen gaps etc quite significantly; notably the “Minimum Space” to be 1/8, instead of the default 1 space.

I quite often have the final hyphen of the system colliding with the last syllable, though.

I agree that Dorico ought to handle such cases, but also with Mark’s excellent points.

FWIW, Daniel Spreadbury knows about this (and as a choir conductor, that’s not surprising) and has stated they would try to tackle this some time ago…

Do you use 3 1/8 as a default for all your projects or only for vocal works?
This sounds incredibly tight to me, but I would need to try. I usually juggle between 3 1/2 (rarely used though) and 4, and am now enjoying the game of using Note Spacing Changes instead of system breaks to find the best solution for each situation!

Well, most of my works are vocal; but yes. It’s my starting point, and I may row back from there, depending on how things look and how the pages fall. Music in 3/8 usually needs to be spaced more widely.
If I’m doing something that uses mostly ‘white’ notes, then I might go down to 2. 7/8.

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I see, so the “blacker” the music is, the higher the note-spacing ratio may go, and opposite for “whiter” music. Very interesting insight, thanks!

Yes, because it’s the space value for a quarter note. All other note durations use the spacing ratio to calculate their spacing, e.g. a half note is 1.41 longer than a quarter. An eighth is 1.41 shorter (e.g. 0.7 of the space).

If all your notes are semibreves, then you can tighten it up. If all your notes are semiquavers, then they may need more space.


That’s an excellent point about white notes. (A different approach, which is probably not worth the work but is semantically interesting, would be to create a custom notehead set where eighth notes are drawn as crotchets, quarters as minims, and so on — reflecting the idea that in Renaissance music, the minim is a basic unit the way the modern crotchet is! Then, one could engrave all the music as if it were written at the quarter, but it would appear in “white note notation,” and one could leave the spacing value un-tightened. All of that is much more fun to think about than to actually go to the trouble of doing, though.)

My default spacing value is 3. I like a very tight layout. I think the Simrock editions of the Brahms motets is about the pinnacle of choral music engraving: about a dozen measures to the system in a printed octavo.

Except that you can’t change the flags. It’s a lot easier just to change the Note Spacing. There’s no advantage to “leaving the spacing value un-tightened”.

12 measures to the system sounds awful, though…! Unless it’s 3/8.