Saturday, April 14, 2007

Close-Enough Hyphenation

In the phrase long-term care insurance, shouldn't there be a second hyphen -- long-term-care insurance? It's insurance for long-term care, not care insurance of the long-term variety, right?

Technically, yes, but that's one of those that fall into the "close enough" category in this hyphen-averse world. In a sense it is care insurance of the long-term variety, and so I don't think that's too much of a tragedy in any publication that isn't so strict that it would print ice-cream cone or high-school student, which is to say most publications.

Contrast that with something like anti-child abuse program, where the single hyphen would be inexcusable.

(Have a question? Send it along and I just might answer it in this space. Let me know whether you want me to include your name/location/affiliation or none of the above.)


Unknown said...

I believe the nexus is whether the lack of a hyphen leads to ambiguity. And in 'high school teacher' or 'low tax regime' there is unlikely to be any.

This incidentlally, is why I don't think 'zero tolerance approach' is a mistake, though Truss could certainly have chosen a more appropriate example to miss out the hyphen.

Skullturf Q. Beavispants said...

Although you can get in trouble for being a high schoolteacher.

Unknown said...

At our paper, it depends on who's slotting. Last night, we had "Peanut-butter manufacturer" in a headline. I thought that was a bit silly.