We are working on a web application (running as intranet site not as public website) for monitoring the state of a set of machines. The application must support several languages, of which one is German.

Especially with Germen we have a lot of cases where we need to display very long words (combined words… in German multiple nouns can be combined into one word) in the UI. For example: Öffnungszeitengruppenliste.

We have two options:

  • we can write the word as one, which is grammatically correct but very hard to read.
  • or we can spate the words using hyphens: Öffnungszeiten-Gruppen-Liste.

The German grammar allows the second version but it is very uncommon. We are not sure which version we should use.

Is there a rule / best practice for handing long UI texts? Have you made any experience with your UIs which might help us?

  • not being a German speaker I may be speaking out of ignorance here.... but the hyphenated one, as grammatically wrong as it may be, does seem a lot easier to read at a quick glance. Correct language should be followed however, would be curious to see an answer from a German speaker Nov 7, 2016 at 15:19
  • Thanks for the answer. I hope to find a more general answer, not only for German… but in general what is more important grammar or readability. Btw. we are all native German speakers and a few members of our team are voting for the first option and the others for the second… Nov 7, 2016 at 15:24
  • 2
    I think this is a question that your target audience should answer. Most of us here do not represent your target audience. Nov 7, 2016 at 16:09

2 Answers 2


Microsoft's German style guide on the subject of Compounds:

The Microsoft standard is that compounds of three components or less are written in one word, unless there are definite problems with the readability of a term (i.e. not subjective readability, but the coming together of several letters to form an unintended character combination, e.g. US: back end, would be "backend", the German present participle of "backen" => for better readability: Back-End), or the software design requires hyphenation. Regarding hyphenation we do not make a difference between English and German compounds any more.

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Generally, compounds should be understandable and clear to the user. Overly long or complex compounds should be avoided. Keep in mind that unintuitive compounds are ultimately an intelligibility and usability issue.

Product names are usually trademarked and therefore remain unchanged; additions to a product name are added with a hyphen.

The German style guide on the linked page has more examples related to the use of 'nicht'; compunds with prepositions; mixed English German compunds and some specific types of system words such as software components:

Compounds with Software Components: To emphasize the independent nature of these software components, the following components are usually hyphenated:

  • Manager
  • Agent
  • Assistent
  • Editor
  • Generator
  • Designer
  • Viewer
  • Explorer

The rules for the hyphen or Bindestrich on Duden.de explicitly allow the use of the hyphen for the purpose of clarification (my translation):

  • Using a hyphen to highlight individual components in a compound word is allowed (rule 21).
  • The hyphen can also be used in confusing (confusingly long) compound words (rule 22).

The hyphen is also used heavily to clarify compounds in so-called Leichte Sprache, which is roughly the German counterpart of "plain language".

While these rules are not about user interfaces, nothing in these rules prevents you from using hyphens where they increase readability in a user interface.

  • Thanks, I think rule 21 does not apply here. The words do not have any other meaning; they are just long. Rule 22 though exactly describes our case. Nov 8, 2016 at 10:30

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