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Grammar Rant of the Day

Today I read this and it just annoyed me:

"To celebrate today’s Hallmark induced festivities, here’s a"...

You need a hyphen- "Hallmark-induced"

Otherwise, you're saying that they are both Hallmark festivities and induced festivities? You're supposed to be combining those two words to make one adjective.

Where people get confused, though, is when they take it too far, and put hyphens between an adverb, and the adjective that it is describing. For example.

"The blatantly-obvious answer..." is incorrect, unless you're coining a brand new hyphenated word.

It's not so bad that it makes me want to write a letter about it, but it interrupts the flow of reading just enough to bother me.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 15th, 2008 07:23 pm (UTC)
Fairly early in my career, I was asked to edit a report. I changed "sea level" about fifty times, hyphenating it in some places and not in others.

It's not a difficult rule. Don't hyphenate compound nouns. "The measurements were done at sea level."

Hyphenate compound adjectives. "There were ten sets of sea-level measurements."

We had some good-natured arguments about this. My friend Fred pulled out a style guide to show me that I was wrong. "What is that, Fred?" I asked.

"The Oxford style guide."

"Where is Oxford?"

"Uh, England?"

"Yes. They do everything backwards there. They act like they invented the language or something."

We searched through the office until we found a copy of the Chicago Manual, which backed me up.

Feb. 15th, 2008 07:41 pm (UTC)
A good rule to use to see if you should use a hyphen is to insert "and" where a hypen would go in a compound adjective and see if it makes sense.

"We had some good and natured arguments" doesn't make sense, so you would probably need a hyphen.

"There were ten sets of sea and level measurements" doesn't either, so, Next Stop: Hyphen City.

I wonder if a comma would work, too.

"Playing video games is good and clean fun" makes sense, so you're probably good to just use "good clean," although then you might be headed into Comma Country.
Feb. 15th, 2008 07:56 pm (UTC)
I think that the standard practice is to use the comma for "good, clean fun".
Feb. 15th, 2008 08:37 pm (UTC)
I think it's optional when you have less than 3 adjectives.
Feb. 15th, 2008 08:44 pm (UTC)
Every time I've seen an example of the given situation in print, and noticed it, it's been split with a comma.
Feb. 15th, 2008 08:55 pm (UTC)
If they're coordinate adjectives, yes, but since this particular expression is colloquial, it's hard to argue that "clean good fun" makes sense. One could argue that good is, in fact, modifying "clean," even though it's probably technically modifying "fun."

In general, you're right, but I think this just happens to be a special case (Google shows pitifully few results of this exact phrase being used with a comma).
Feb. 15th, 2008 07:57 pm (UTC)
The real key is to look for ambiguity. "sea-level" is different from "sea" or "level." So if it's not hyphenated, does it mean the measurements are level, or the sea is level? Of course, it actually means neither.

Even though, in this case, the meaning is clear from context, it's a stumbling block for the reader. He hesitates, says "oh, I see," and moves on. Good prose should flow smoothly. Even in technical reports. Especially in technical reports. The hyphen removes the ambiguity and the reader can breeze right on through.
Feb. 15th, 2008 07:43 pm (UTC)
I'm glad that Jim worries about this so the rest of us don't have to.
Feb. 15th, 2008 08:36 pm (UTC)
If you wanna sound uneducated in your speech/writing, who am I to worry?
Feb. 15th, 2008 11:09 pm (UTC)

I'm just amazed at how much of a pet peeve grammar can be. Maybe my perspective is a bit odd, but I've never had much use for analyzing the reasoning behind language rules the way you do. I've always just picked up language and writing habits through exposure.
Feb. 15th, 2008 08:37 pm (UTC)
ah, liberal arts education...
Feb. 15th, 2008 08:40 pm (UTC)
Bah. I never learned a lick of grammar from college. I blame my mother being an English teacher.
Feb. 15th, 2008 09:18 pm (UTC)
Me either. Or in high school. I learned more English grammar in high-school German than I ever did in any English class. But mostly I learned it on the fly in a job that required a fair amount of technical writing.

I don't know a lot of rules. I just know what sounds right. If somebody asks me why I wrote something the way I did, half the time I have to go look it up.

But, in this job, nobody ever asks me. Technical reports are deliverables, to be done so that somebody can check a box on a checklist. Nobody (but me) cares about complete sentences and consistent tense and even correct spelling.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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