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Thread: Hyphenation Hell

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Hyphenation Hell

    Damn those compound words.

    There has to be an easy way to figure out what gets a hyphen, right?

    I am currently looking up everything in my Merriams but it's so tedious.

    Is there a list somewhere?

    And how about this as an example.

    detail oriented or detail-oriented

    THANKS!

    Deb

  2. #2
    delicate #!&@*#! flower Perks's Avatar
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    In that case it looks better without. How's that for scientific? I'm keeping an eye on this one to see if it's a 'by consensus' thing or if anybody knows a rule for this.

  3. #3
    'Twas but a dream of thee El Jefe MacAllister's Avatar
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    I sorta sprinkle 'em liberally throughout, so I've got something to obsess about later, on rewrite.
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  4. #4
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    oh dearrrr

    Great. So, I'll just keep pretending to know with my clients :-)

  5. #5
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    Here's a rule I was taught to go by (but I don't know if it's 100% right or not!):

    If it is immediately before the noun it describes, use the hyphen:

    He is a detail-oriented person.

    If it is not immediately before a noun that it describes, don't use it:

    He is detail oriented.

    And, like I said, I could be wrong.

  6. #6
    Fig of authority
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    You really need to know the basis for hyphenation if it's part of a service to clients.

    For compounds consisting of a noun and a participle, the current practice in the U.S. is to hyphenate before the noun (i.e., use of the compound as an attributive adjective) and not after the noun (use as a predicative adjective). A detail-oriented analysis. The training was detail oriented.

    I prefer hyphens in both situations, and I'm not sure all style books say to leave them out in the latter one.

    If a compound is in quotes and nothing else is in the quotes, don't hyphenate. The quote marks set the compound off as a unit. Dr. Smith described the new training program as "detail oriented" and added that trainees had homework assignments every week.

  7. #7
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    yes just that...

    The above info is what I thought but there seems to be so much inconsistency.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by wordlancer
    The above info is what I thought but there seems to be so much inconsistency.
    Inconsistency among style manuals or inconsistency in published writing? If in published writing, disregard it; most people don't know how to hyphenate.

  9. #9
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    decision making or decision-making

    So what about:

    He is a skilled decision maker

    and

    ...uses poor resources to inform his decision making


    Thanks!

  10. #10
    resident curmudgeon
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    Quote Originally Posted by wordlancer
    So what about:

    He is a skilled decision maker

    and

    ...uses poor resources to inform his decision making


    Thanks!


    I'm not sure exactly how to put this, but hyphens are often a sign of bad sentence structure. There are times when hyphens are both needed and correct, but about as often as not, when you need a hyphen, you also need to rewrite the sentence.

    Rather than "He is a skilled decision maker," try "He is skilled at making decisions," for example. Or, "He makes very good decisions," etc.

    And "uses poor resources to inform his decision making" sounds like something a business major who always closed his eyes and plugged his ears when walking past an English classroom would write. As soon as you get to "to inform," the sentence is already dead, hyphen or no hyphen. It's simply a bad sentence in every possible way. Both sentences are actually "business bad," as the saying goes.

    When you find yourself in need of a hyphen, first look at the sentence as a whole. There's at least a fifty fifty chance that the reason you need a hyphen, or think you need one, is because the sentence has lousy structure, and is probably far too complicated. Simplification alone eliminates a great many hyphens.
    Last edited by Jamesaritchie; 04-15-2006 at 02:09 AM.

  11. #11
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    wish I'd thought of that.

    Great insight. I do feel like a teeny grasshopper now :-) And yes, indeed, the above examples were straight from the pens of global business leaders.

  12. #12
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    If you're hired to edit something lightly, clients may not expect, welcome, or pay you enough for a rewrite that would eliminate their occupational jargon. Besides, the treatment of "decision maker" applies to all compound nouns having the same structure, so here we go.

    "Decision maker" and "decision making," as compound nouns, take no hyphens, because the noun "decision" is the object of the verb "make." A decision maker is one who makes decisions. Similarly for "cattle raising" and "dog breeder": the activity of raising cattle; one who breeds dogs. "Almond grower," "tool and die maker," "taxi driving," "housing inspector," "dress designing," "textbook writer."

    As adjectives: "the decision-making process," "a cattle-raising enterprise."

  13. #13
    resident curmudgeon
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    Quote Originally Posted by reph
    If you're hired to edit something lightly, clients may not expect, welcome, or pay you enough for a rewrite that would eliminate their occupational jargon. Besides, the treatment of "decision maker" applies to all compound nouns having the same structure, so here we go.

    "Decision maker" and "decision making," as compound nouns, take no hyphens, because the noun "decision" is the object of the verb "make." A decision maker is one who makes decisions. Similarly for "cattle raising" and "dog breeder": the activity of raising cattle; one who breeds dogs. "Almond grower," "tool and die maker," "taxi driving," "housing inspector," "dress designing," "textbook writer."

    As adjectives: "the decision-making process," "a cattle-raising enterprise."


    Well, some do and some don't. Generally speaking, I've found that much jargon really isn't jargon at all, but simply lack of writing skills. The ability to turn "businessese" into plain English is a highly sought after skill.

  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW ComicBent's Avatar
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    Questions raised about:

    1. The training was detail oriented.

    2. He is a skilled decision maker.


    My recommendations for American English style:

    1. The training was detail-oriented.

    There has been a movement to allow the omission of the hypen in a compound predicate adjective. Sometimes that makes for a simpler, arguably cleaner look, as in:

    The old towel was gray toned.

    But you are not under a compulsion to follow this "permissive" policy if you do not want to. I personally use the old-fashioned style of hyphenating the logical units, so I would write:

    The old towel was gray-toned.

    Check "The Chicago Manual of Style" for a full discussion of the issue.

    2. He is a skilled decision maker.

    This is perfectly correct in American style. It is not even disputable. Everyone who reads it knows that *decision maker* is a unit and that *skilled* modifies the unit.

    In cases of ambiguity, you would need a hyphen to clarify:

    He is a fine jewelry maker

    vs.

    He is a fine-jewelry maker.
    The fact that you have seen professionals write poorly is no reason for you to imitate them.

  15. #15
    practical experience, FTW acousticgroupie's Avatar
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    yes if it's a modifier hyphenate it.

    then that raises the question about hyphenating something as a verb aka the decision maker debacle. as a noun, decision maker would be fine. what about decision-making? (aka He was involved in the decision making?)

    i've seen style so controversial in the newsroom over stuff like that.

  16. #16
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    He was involved in the decision making. (noun; no hyphen)

    He was involved in the decision-making process. (compound adjective; hyphen)

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