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Hyphens are occasionally used to denote syllabification, as in syl-la-bi-fi-ca-tion. Various British and North American dictionaries use an interpunct, sometimes called a "middle dot" or "hyphenation point", for this purpose, as in syl·la·bi·fi·ca·tion. This allows the hyphen to be reserved only for places where a hard hyphen is intended (for example, self-con·scious, un·self-con·scious, long-stand·ing). Similarly, hyphens may be used to indicate how a word is being or should be spelled. For example, W-O-R-D spells "word".

In nineteenth-century American literature, hyphens were also used irregularly to divide syllables in words from indigenous North American languages, without regard for etymology or pronunciation: e.g. "Shuh-shuh-gah" (from Ojibwe zhashagi, "blue heron") in The Song of Hiawatha. This usage is now rare and proscribed, except in some place names such as Ah-gwah-ching.