Real-world .... as an adjective?

Subject: Real-world .... as an adjective?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 25 Jun 2004 17:22:50 -0400

Jon Jacob Jinglehymerschmidt wondered: <<Of course the phrase "real world" does not always have a hyphen when it's a noun phrase ("Unlike my online persona, I'm quite shy in the real world."), but I've noticed a lot of people use a hyphen with it's used as an adjective phrase.>>

When you combine two words to create a compound adjective, you should generally hyphenate the combination. The hyphen is crucial if the phrase could be misread; that's not the case here, since a "real-world book" is clearly more likely than a "real worldbook". But in other cases, the meaning isn't so clear without the hyphen.

Though you could certainly examine each case to determine whether a hyphen is essential, that's a lot of work for not much gain, and the results can look inconsistent to the non-hyphen-friendly reader. Hyphenating all compounds is a conservative approach that maximizes understanding and minimizes the risk of misreading. It always appears consistent, and is easier to do than deciding on an ad hoc basis each time.

<<Is the hyphen in real-world EVER appropriate?>>

It's never wrong; it may sometimes be unnecessary.

<<Can anyone confirm from some semi-authoritative source that the hyphen is EVER appropriate for this phrase when used as an adjective?>>

Any style guide (e.g., the Chicago Manual of Style) and many dictionaries--all of which might be considered more than "semi" authoritative--will confirm this.

--Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)


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Real-world .... as an adjective: From: Jon Jacob Jinglehymerschmidt

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