In technical documentation, sometimes the tool's automatic hyphenation makes a bad break in the middle of a term, like the name of an environment variable or function. In these cases I would rather have a short line than hyphenation, though I want hyphenation in the document in general. I can try to "write around" egregious cases to try to avoid the problem term being near the end of a line, but that's fragile. I'm looking for a solution that fixes all of them, without me having to individually handle each case.

I am using DocBook, which we transform to Formatting Objects (FO) and thence to PDF. Ideally I would like to be able to write a style directive that says "don't hyphenate inside these XML elements" and apply it to <classname>, <methodname>, and several others. This FO documentation describes a way to do this at the page-block level, e.g. to turn off hyphenation in a table of contents or a preface, but that's too coarse. This forum post suggests a way to hard-wire them within the text, meaning I would have to put a special directive around each class name, method name, and so on. (Also, it sounds like it didn't work for him.)

How can I most easily prevent bad hyphenation breaks in my code elements, working within the tool chain I have? (I'm not free to change that.)

  • Are you able to use CSS to style those elements? I have not tried this, but it seems as if hyphens:manual or hyphens:none would do thee trick. l.dhemery.com/1apHFhT Oct 16, 2013 at 19:06
  • The end state here is PDF, so I don't think CSS is in play. But I could be wrong; thanks. Oct 16, 2013 at 19:13
  • Is LaTeX an option? If so, it is pretty easy to do. See: tex.ac.uk/cgi-bin/texfaq2html?label=wdnohyph Oct 17, 2013 at 4:09
  • No, our extensive documentation is in DocBook and porting to something else is not feasible. Besides, DocBook gives us important features that LaTeX probably lacks. No tool does everything; we chose the one that does most of what we need. Oct 17, 2013 at 22:07

2 Answers 2


With help from a coworker I was able to fix this by adding the following to the FO stylesheet:

<xsl:template match="classname">
  <fo:inline hyphenate="false">
    <xsl:call-template name="inline.monoseq"/>

And likewise for other elements that should get this treatment, like methodname and literal.

This creates a wrapper around the native style, changing hyphenation only.


  • This seems like something that should be included in docbook-xsl FO. I can't think of a case where I would want to hyphenate classnames. Jun 22, 2019 at 3:14
  • @RyanNowakowski yeah, you'd think. I don't know whether the current version does, but when I ran into this problem in 2013 it didn't. (I've since changed employer and thus tools.) Jun 23, 2019 at 3:19

The post you referenced has the basics: in FO, you can't change the hyphenation property for just part of a block. You may be able to change the hyphenation dictionary (add the words you don't want to be hyphenated), but this depends on the tools you use. Information for FOP

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