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The Great Hyphen Extinction

Filed under: Looked Into   Tagged: ,

Hyphens are endangered. This is not necessarily bad. Perhaps even The New Yorker will soon shake off a few of its hyphenated habits—just the most antiquated ones. I like hyphens very much myself, and would never advocate their complete extinction! But you know, dear copy dept., that “life-style” and “sound-track” just don’t work anymore, especially in quotations from spangly modern sources. Do they still do “teen-ager”? Yes, it appears they do. Any other hyphenated dinosaurs you can think of? Again, this is not a general railing against “that copy dept. at The New Yorker, why is it stuck in the past?” I like many of its quirks, although, as you know, I take exception to British spellings. (And I’m half-Canadian!) I just think that you can’t talk about the “sound-track” to an Apatow or Cronenberg film, or the “life-style” of Jay-Z, or the “teen-agers” in Kids. Don’t you?


But are they really endangered? Check this out…http://blog.oup.com/2007/09/hyphens/.

I always found it disconcerting that the New Yorker wrote “Vice-President.”

I would have also been interested in Oxford’s take on hyphenating prefixes. Our general rule where I work is that they are run in, except when it looks odd or hard to read, but as time goes by I find that more and more look better to me hyphenated, espcially with “co-“. (Is that right, to put the period outside the quote in this instance? I like it.) But it might just come of looking too hard at the words….

Jonathan TaylorSeptember 28, 2007

Oh, but my outside period (outside-period?) gambit was sabotaged by the “smart” quotes (they appear straight when you’re typing in).

Jonathan TaylorSeptember 28, 2007

hyphens are nice… sadly, when writing, i tend to make them look pretty… thus, they appear more like this: ~

i look at them like new york apartment furniture; they should be functional and attractive.

I believe there needs to be an official probationary period, after which a word moves from hyphenated compound word to closed compound word. My recommendation is two years, tops, in the MW Dictionary. It’s time words like “by-product” and “fund-raising” were officially hitched.

The definitive practitioner of unnecessary hyphen use is T. Herman Zweibel, age-besotted plutocrat, iron lung captive, and publisher of The Onion.

General over-view:

On-line archive of his news-paper columns:

Ben: I was not aware of THZ’s hyphen-o-mania — very funny! I would wager that many of them were in common use at some point.

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