Thursday, June 01, 2006

Hyphen Shortages

For those who have missed my rants about anti-child abuse programs, Banterist offers an excellent illustration of the one-hyphen-short error.


H. Philip Aster said...

On a somewhat similar note, I had an issue with hyphens in a piece about "partial-birth abortion," specifically when it was necessary (or convenient, rather) to refer to state laws criminalizing partial-birth abortion: partial-birth-abortion bans. It seems that the extra hyphen makes people uncomfortable. (I am aware that the term "partial-birth abortion" or "partial-birth" abortion, as some prefer, is an obvious dysphemism that is medically inaccurate. I used "intact D & E" in the article when possible.)

gollywog said...

anti–child abuse legislation, with the en dash before compound is also acceptable, though most people reading don't know this mark. it's used at all of the magazines in new york that i've worked for, including The New York Times Magazine and Rolling Stone

Bill said...

Yes, for the world beyond newspapers and ASCII there is the en dash, but it just doesn't work for me -- and I don't trust that people without Ivy League degrees in English have the foggiest idea what's going on when they see such a thing.

Stephen Jones said...

Most people don't even notice the en dash, let alone realize it has a special meaning.

What incidentally do you suggest for the case in point?
Sound-bite free radio
Sound-bite-free radio?
The latter is the only unambigous form, but aesthetic it ain't.

Bepshim said...

I often see the compounds "long-term care facility" and "long-term care insurance," but I think a second hyphen, between term and care, should be added to avoid ambiguity: long-term-care facility and long-term-care insurance.

Bill said...

Sound-bite-free radio, without a doubt. We can't always have aesthetics, as I've been painfully reminded so often.

On the other hand: Technically, yes, it would be long-term-care insurance and long-term-care facility, but that's the kind of construction on which I weasel out of the technicality and maintain that we are indeed talking about care insurance and care facilities, and so a care facility of the long-term variety can certainly be called a long-term care facility, with one hyphen. Quite different from abuse legislation that is anti-child or free radio of a sound-bite nature.