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The Case of the Missing Hyphen, Part 2

We thank all of you who took the time to respond to the question we posed two weeks ago: Should it be e-mail or email? There were eloquent arguments for both sides, but email won decisively. “Time to join the 21st century,” wrote one gentleman, who added, “and I’m 61 years old.”

Many of you chose email for pragmatic reasons, like this respondent: “In all practicality, email will win. On my smartphone, anyone typing the word e-mail has to shift to a second, then a third screen to complete the word.”

What this amounts to, said another reader, is that “texting is creating a whole new language.” We find ourselves rattled by that thought.

If, as one of you wrote, “The only quick punctuation mark I have on my smartphone is the period,” then this helps explain the indifference to hyphens, commas, apostrophes—and capital letters after periods—that we nitpickers are noting with ever-increasing dismay. Why should advances in technology have to come at the expense of the English language?

Other readers took the long view. “When the use of a particular prefix with a particular word is new, the hyphen is a useful link,” wrote one. “Once people become used to the new combination, the hyphen will be dropped.” History bears out this astute observation. Let’s look at some other familiar words that have followed the same pattern.

Goodbye: In 1968, Random House’s American College Dictionary demanded a hyphen, and preferred good-by to good-bye. The 1980 American Heritage dictionary agreed. But by 2006, American Heritage preferred goodbye, although it also listed the hyphenated choices.

Passerby: It started out as passer-by. The Associated Press Stylebook still recommends the hyphen, but that probably won’t last. The American Heritage dictionary already gave passerby top billing eight years ago.

Fundraiser: After years of recommending fund-raiser, the Associated Press’s manual dropped the hyphen seven years or so ago.

Baseball: The one-word form we have today did not prevail until less than 100 years ago. It was base ball in the early nineteenth century and base-ball in the early twentieth century.

Grass-roots (adjective): The American Heritage dictionary, Webster’s New World (fourth edition), and the Associated Press all agree on the hyphen, but grassroots is coming on strong.

So who are we to flout the inevitable? From now on, we’ll grit our teeth and write email.

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Posted on Monday, March 17, 2014, at 8:08 pm


Colons (Continued)

In a blog first published on August 11, 2007, I helped you understand how to use colons with lists. In this blog, I’d like to help you with other uses of the colon.

Rule 4: It’s often useful to use a colon instead of a semicolon between two sentences when the second sentence explains or illustrates the first sentence and no coordinating conjunction is being used to connect the sentences. If only one sentence follows the colon, it is usually unnecessary to capitalize the first word of the new sentence. If two or more sentences follow the colon, capitalize the first word of each sentence following.

Examples:
I enjoy reading: novels by Kurt Vonnegut are among my favorites.

Garlic is used in Italian cooking: It greatly enhances the flavor of pasta dishes. It also enhances the flavor of eggplant.

Rule 5: Use a colon to introduce a long direct quotation. In this situation, many writers leave a blank line above and below the quoted material and single space the long quotation. Quotation marks are not used.

Example:

The author of Touched, Jane Straus, wrote in the first chapter:

Georgia went back to her bed and stared at the intricate patterns of burned moth wings in the translucent glass of the overhead light. Her father was in “hyper mode” again. Nothing could calm him down.

He’d been talking nonstop for a week about remodeling projects, following her around the house as she tried to escape his chatter. He was just about to crash, she knew.

Rule 6: Use the colon to follow the salutation of a business letter even when addressing someone by his or her first name. Never use a semicolon after a salutation. For personal correspondence, use a comma after the salutation.

Example: Dear Ms. Rodriguez:

 

Pop Quiz
1A. Dear Mr. Ang;
1B. Dear Mr. Ang:

2A. The noise from the car collision suggested injuries: One of the drivers was taken to the emergency room with a broken arm. The other walked away from the accident scene with just a few scratches.
2B. The noise from the car collision suggested injuries: one of the drivers was taken to the emergency room with a broken arm. The other walked away from the accident scene with just a few scratches.

 

Pop Quiz Answers
1B. Dear Mr. Ang:
2A. The noise from the car collision suggested injuries: One of the drivers was taken to the emergency room with a broken arm. The other walked away from the accident scene with just a few scratches.

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Posted on Wednesday, May 27, 2009, at 7:56 pm


Colons with Lists

Rule 1: Use the colon after a complete sentence to introduce a list of items when introductory words such as namely, for example, or that is do not apply or are not appropriate.

Examples:
You may be required to bring many items: sleeping bags, pans, and warm clothing.
I want the following items: butter, sugar, and flour.
I want an assistant who can do the following: (1) input data, (2) write reports, and (3) complete tax forms.


Rule 2: A colon usually does not precede a list unless it follows a complete sentence.

Examples:
To be successful in sales, one should do the following: (a) dress appropriately, (b) ask customers about their needs, and (c) follow through.

To be successful in sales, one should (a) dress appropriately, (b) ask customers about their needs, and (c) follow through.

Rule 3: With tabular format, a colon customarily precedes a list.

Examples:
To be successful in sales, one should do the following:
(a) dress appropriately
(b) ask customers about their needs
(c) follow through

To be successful in sales, one should:
(a) dress appropriately
(b) ask customers about their needs
(c) follow through

Note: You may use and before the last phrase.

To be successful in sales, one should:
(a) dress appropriately,
(b) ask customers about their needs,
(c) and follow through.

Note:
Capitalization and punctuation are optional when using single words or phrases in bulleted form. If each bullet or numbered point is a complete sentence, capitalize the first word and end each sentence with proper ending punctuation. The rule of thumb is to be consistent.

To be successful in sales, one should:
• Dress appropriately,
• Ask customers about their needs,
• Follow through.

Note: With lists, you may use periods after numbers and letters instead of parentheses.

For our meeting on Tuesday, please:
a. E-mail the agenda to me by Monday afternoon.
b. Call me 15 minutes before the meeting is set to begin.
c. Distribute the notes to all the board members after the meeting.

Pop Quiz
Add punctuation if needed.
1. The following are required (a) wet suits, (b) fins, (c) snorkels.
2. Please bring (a) wet suits, (b) fins, and (c) snorkels.

Pop Quiz Answers

1. The following are required: (a) wet suits, (b) fins, (c) snorkels.
2. Please bring (a) wet suits, (b) fins, and (c) snorkels. (CORRECT)

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Posted on Saturday, August 11, 2007, at 8:09 pm


Using Commas, Semicolons, and Colons Within Sentences

Punctuation within sentences can be tricky; however, if you know just a few of the following rules, you will be well on your way to becoming a polished writer and proofreader.

Rule: Use a comma between two long independent clauses when conjunctions such as and, or, but, for, nor connect them.
Example: I have painted the entire house, but she is still working on sanding the floors.

Rule: If the clauses are both short, you may omit the comma.
Example: I painted and he sanded.

Rule: If you have only one clause (one subject and verb pair), you won’t usually need a comma in front of the conjunction.
Example: I have painted the house but still need to sand the floors.
This sentence has two verbs but only one subject, so it has only one clause.

Rule: Use the semicolon if you have two independent clauses connected without a conjunction.
Example: I have painted the house; I still need to sand the floors.

Rule: Also use the semicolon when you already have commas within a sentence for smaller separations, and you need the semicolon to show bigger separations.
Example: We had a reunion with family from Salt Lake City, Utah; Los Angeles, California; and Albany, New York.

Rule: A colon is used to introduce a second sentence that clarifies the first sentence.
Example: We have set this restriction: do your homework before watching television.
Notice that the first word of the second sentence is not capitalized. If, however, you have additional sentences following the sentence with the colon and they explain the sentence prior to the colon, capitalize the first word of all the sentences following the colon.

Rule: Use a colon to introduce a list when no introductory words like namely, for instance, i.e., e.g. precede the list.
Example: I need four paint colors: blue, gray, green, and red.

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Posted on Sunday, October 1, 2006, at 10:15 pm