Category: Hyphens

Hyphens: We Miss Them When They’re Gone

Posted on Tuesday, August 30, 2016, at 2:33 pm

Most people ignore hyphens. Those who don’t ignore them often misuse them. “Nothing gives away the incompetent amateur more quickly than the typescript that neglects this mark of punctuation or that employs it where it is not wanted,” wrote the language scholar Wilson Follett. The writer-editor Theodore M. Bernstein was more sympathetic: “The world of …

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A Sportswriter Cries “Foul!”

Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2016, at 1:30 pm

by Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle sports columnist The hyphens are coming, and beware—they’re taking over. Commas, not so much. Commas have gone extinct. These are a couple of my pet peeves when it comes to grammatical violations in print. More on that later. In the meantime: Somehow, a guy named Al showed up in …

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Copy Editors Are People Too

Posted on Wednesday, June 8, 2016, at 9:38 am

There can’t be many books about the life and adventures of a professional word doctor, but one that came out in 2015 is definitely worth a look. It’s Between You and Me, by Mary Norris, a longtime New Yorker copy editor who calls herself a “comma queen.” Norris admits that the book’s very title is a grammar lesson: …

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Punctuation or Chaos

Posted on Wednesday, April 13, 2016, at 9:43 am

She said I saved the company No one knows for sure what the above sentence means. It consists of six everyday words, and the first five are monosyllables, yet this simple declarative sentence has at least three quite different meanings—maybe more, because with no period on the end, the reader can’t even be sure the …

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The Elusive En Dash

Posted on Tuesday, April 14, 2015, at 3:40 pm

When a compound adjective precedes a noun it is describing, we often need a hyphen: prize-winning recipe, twentieth-century literature. If a compound adjective comprises more than two words, we use as many hyphens as are needed: a three-day-old newspaper,a dyed-in-the-wool snob. But try to punctuate the compound adjectives in these phrases: a New York based artist, a Charles …

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