I've imported quite a few Word files over the years, and I've never seen this.
The Word file could be corrupt. Try opening it in a recent version of Word and resave the file, and try again.
Thanks Steve. It came as a 'docx' file (i.e. recent Word) and after your suggestion I was prompted to try saving it renamed as another docx, then as an older 'doc' file, and also as an rtf file. Same effect in all of them. In some words the hyphen is properly retained, in others it appears as a discretionary hyphen and so disappears.
I have also tried a new InDesign file - same result. And also in CS4 - same result.
I've saved it as a short test file (it was an index) in case anyone was interested in trying it but couldn't readily see how to post it here.
I've never received a Word file that doesn't need some cleaning up—things like double spaces starting a sentence, tabs indenting a paragraph, returns creating white-space, non-breaking spaces, all have to go via a script or search and replace. So, you could include discretionary hyphens in the list and replace with real hyphens.
There could be a case where the author is actually trying to manipulate breaks and the discretionary hyphen is intended—the word isn't a hyphenated word—but it doesn't sound like that's what's going on.
On some word files, before importing to InDesign - in Microsoft Word I go to the Tool menu and there's an option for "Fix Broken Text" which seems to fix a lot of issues with import.
Perhaps also saving as a RTF and try importing that instead.
Can it copy and paste the text ok? I do this mostly into a blank document and then perform any InDesign clean ups there. I then expor to RTF from InDesign and then reimport that RTF (because I need to map style on import). Plus the Clean RTF is better for sending around to other parties should they need it.
Thanks for the suggestions. I tried the copy and paste - same result. 'Fix Broken Text' seems to have dropped out of Word (there was a note somewhere that it was a 'legacy issue'). I had tried the rtf as well. I have imported many Word files from many sources and never seen this before. I suppose it is just one more thing to check for.
We have just been having a similar problem where upon import of a docx file from Word, hyphens disappeared in InDesign CS5.5 and 6 and the word imported as closed (like your Britishborn issue). Our file only did it on some hyphens and not others (but was consistent on which ones it dropped every time), but we had some files where every single one dropped out and we couldn't figure out why. In the end, we checked the Word file with the hidden characters displayed and noticed the hyphens that disappeared had a longer hidden character (maybe the symbol for discretionary hyphen) and appeared different than the ones that didn't disappear. Our quick fix was to open the file in Word, do a find and replace and put a hyphen in both fields. When we replaced all the "hyphens" with regular hyphens, the disappearing ones changed to regular hyphens and it fixed our issue (and they appeared normal using hidden character view). Saving the docx file as an rtf file and importing that into InDesign also worked for us, but if that wasn't working for you perhaps the find and replace hyphens in Word will. Good luck!
That's interesting (and strangely comforting to know someone else has experienced the problem). I tried displaying the hidden characters, but there was nothing obviously different about the disappearing hyphens. However, I copied and pasted a 'bad' hyphen into search and replace in Word. It looked like nothing went into the find box, but I persevered and put a keyboard hyphen into replace and 'changed all'. That fixed the file for import into InDesign. So at least the work-arounds work.... Thanks.