To hyphen or not-to-hyphen, that is the question?

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To hyphen or not-to-hyphen, that is the question?

Post by Deej on Fri Apr 12, 2013 6:36 pm

As Elaine will tell you, I totally suck at grammar. I'm trying to learn, but it's a different animal than I understand. So does anyone have any hard and fast rules about the use of a hyphen??? I can't rely on Word, I've used various on-line dictionaries and thesauruses and find they often conflict?

How do you authors handle this?

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Re: To hyphen or not-to-hyphen, that is the question?

Post by Lilien on Fri Apr 12, 2013 7:31 pm

I always thought how languages have similarities when it comes to punctuation marks, but I was wrong. There is so many differences even when it comes to simple comma which is simply amazing.

Well, I am analphabet when it comes to English.

Hyphen is -, right?
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Re: To hyphen or not-to-hyphen, that is the question?

Post by Deej on Fri Apr 12, 2013 8:06 pm

Yes, that's right, Lily. You have an excuse, English is only one of the ten languages you speak, I only speak English.

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Re: To hyphen or not-to-hyphen, that is the question?

Post by BassGuitarGirl on Sat Apr 13, 2013 11:29 am

Deej wrote: I can't rely on Word
No truer words were ever written! Mad
Do you have specific examples you want help with? Are you talking about the simple en-dash (-) or the longer em-dash (--)?
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Re: To hyphen or not-to-hyphen, that is the question?

Post by ElaineB on Sat Apr 13, 2013 1:58 pm

She's probably scratching her head now...en dash? Em dash?

But sticking with hyphens for now, there are no hard and fast rules. But most commonly you hyphenate a compound modifier before a noun (but not after the noun).

Marriage is a long-time commitment.
Marriage is a commitment for a long time.

It's all about making things easy for the reader.

In order to be consistent, most publishers rely on the Chicago Manual of Style for guidelines for all kinds of things, including hyphens.

Here's just part of what it has to say about hyphens:
5.91Phrasal adjectives

A phrasal adjective (also called a compound modifier) is a phrase that functions as a unit to modify a noun. A phrasal adjective follows these basic rules: (1) Generally, if it is placed before a noun, you should hyphenate the phrase to avoid misdirecting the reader {dog-eat-dog competition}. There may be a considerable difference between the hyphenated and the unhyphenated forms. For example, compare small animal hospital with small-animal hospital. (2) If a compound noun is an element of a phrasal adjective, the entire compound noun must be hyphenated to clarify the relationship among the words {time-clock-punching employees}. (3) If more than one phrasal adjective modifies a single noun, hyphenation becomes especially important {nineteenth-century song-and-dance numbers} {state-inspected assisted-living facility}. (4) If two phrasal adjectives end in a common element, the ending element should appear only with the second phrase, and a suspension hyphen should follow the unattached words to show that they are related to the ending element {middle- and upper-class operagoers}. But if two phrasal adjectives begin with a common element, a hyphen is usually inappropriate, and the element should be repeated {left-handed and left-brained executives}. (5) If the phrasal adjective denotes an amount or a duration, plurals should be dropped. For instance, pregnancy lasts nine months but is a nine-month pregnancy, and a shop open twenty-four hours a day requires a twenty-four-hour-a-day schedule. The plural is retained only for fractions {a two-thirds majority}. (6) If a phrasal adjective becomes awkward, the sentence should probably be recast. For example, The news about the lower-than-expected third-quarter earnings disappointed investors could become The news about the third-quarter earnings, which were lower than expected, disappointed investors. Or perhaps this: Investors were disappointed by the third-quarter earnings, which were lower than expected. There are exceptions for hyphenating phrasal adjectives: (1) If the phrasal adjective follows a verb, it is usually unhyphenated—for example, compare a well-trained athlete with an athlete who is well trained. (2) When a proper name begins a phrasal adjective, the name is not hyphenated {the Monty Python school of comedy}. (3) A two-word phrasal adjective that begins with an adverb ending in ‑ly is not hyphenated {a sharply worded reprimand} (but a not-so-sharply-worded reprimand). For a full discussion of hyphenation—including treatment of compound noun forms and other parts of speech—see 7.77–85.

Eyes glazed over yet?

Beyond a style manual, you want to pick one dictionary and go by it consistently for compound words (is it two words, one word or a hyphenated word?). Dictionaries vary, so just use one, preferably one of some renown, not Joe Beerhead's Online Dictionery. I use Merriam-Webster's online.

I have a whole shelf of grammar and English usage books and often have to look in several to come to a confident understanding. I misunderstood compose and comprise for years, even after researching it. It's ridiculous in some ways, just a way to keep editors employed juhuu

But really, it comes down to being consistent and helping the reader understand the story. The last thing you want them to stop and ponder is whether it's a small hospital or a hospital for small animals.

But yeah, give us some examples. You might see we disagree. Scared
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Re: To hyphen or not-to-hyphen, that is the question?

Post by Deej on Sat Apr 13, 2013 2:15 pm

Barb, I was talking the use of the hyphen, not the keystrokes, but thanks.

Elaine, I think I really understand the first example you gave vs all the rest. LOL

Tell me about dictionaries. I'm formatting and proofing Redemption and read the word "peer" in two places in the same paragraph. I thought I'd change one???? When I tried the thesaurus, peer wasn't even there as in I peered at the picture???? I went to three different references and none showed what I had used the word for? I thought I was going crazy, or more crazy as the case may be. I sent an email to Linda quick to help me. LOL

Thank you all.

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Re: To hyphen or not-to-hyphen, that is the question?

Post by ElaineB on Sat Apr 13, 2013 5:09 pm

Well, first of all, you want the verb, not the noun, which is what comes up first in the dictionary.

Merriam-Webster's web dictionary is here: http://www.merriam-webster.com/

There's a tab for Thesaurus. When I put in "peer" and select the verb, I get:
Peer
to look long and hard in wonder or surprise <visitors seem mesmerized as they peer at the variety of marine life in the aquarium's huge tank>
Synonyms blink, gawk, gawp [chiefly British], gaze, goggle, peer, rubberneck, stare
Related Words glare, gloat, glower; consider, eye, fixate, observe, regard, watch; leer, ogle; peruse, pore (over), study; outface, outstare, stare down
Near Antonyms glance, glimpse, peek, peep; browse, dip (into), scan; wink (at)
Funny they list peer as a synonym for peer.

By the way, you might move this thread to Craft. I had trouble finding it again.
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