Hyphenation of a word: vice-president?

Subject: Hyphenation of a word: vice-president?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 13 Mar 2001 16:16:20 -0500

Cassandra Parker wonders: <<... is the word "Vice-President" always
hyphenated? Some say yes, some say no but I'm looking for the rule, if there
is any.>>

Whatever "some" may say, the dictionary always sets it with a hyphen, so
that's the way I'm voting. With very few exceptions (e.g., vice admiral,
which is terminology unique to they specific domainof the Navy, and ditto
for viceregency, but in the domain of royalty), vice- words should have a
hyphen to indicate that the word means "standing in for" rather than "moral
depravity or corruption" (e.g., "the Vice Squad"). The more general rule is
that when society first combines two words into a single compound, we add a
hyphen; when enough years pass that everyone's tired of typing the hyphen,
it gets dropped and the word gets set solid--unless doing so looks funny,
and then the hyphen sticks around a lot longer.

In the absence of a hyphen, the Vice President stands amongst the same crew
as the Smut President, the Alcohol President, and the Manager of Marketing
<g>, and whether the Vice Admiral belongs in this less than lofty crew I
leave to the Navy folk on this list to reveal.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that
English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words;
on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them
unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary."-- James D. Nicoll


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