punctuation et al. rules

Subject: punctuation et al. rules
From: Ken Poshedly <poshedly -at- bellsouth -dot- net>
To: TECHWR-L Writing <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 20 Feb 2017 20:18:41 +0000 (UTC)

Here's a quickie.

I work for a manufacturer of a China-based, heavy construction equipment. Now that's, REAL hardware.

Most of our source material is English-language stuff is right from the company's offices in mainland China, where their English-language skills are fair at best. The remainder of our source material is what we here write IF we are lucky enough to have the machine here on our premises for photos and inspection.

My American manager is a nice guy (about age 60, and I'm seven years older) but he is not a true tech writer. He is an ex-Marine who had written the technical stuff for a heavy equipment dealer where he was employed for some years, and very proud of it. And he certainly knows his stuff from a technical side of things. Absolutely. Many times, he'll forward a Word document for me to format (we use FrameMaker 11.0) that he has written and I'll usually find little stuff to fix, but then he'll quibble with me about it. I usually give in because he's the boss.
In today's document from him is the phrase "7 pin connector". My fix was to simply add a hyphen to make it "7-pin connector". But he objected and I VERY diplomatically told him that in our industry, it is common to take mechanics and other factory workers with oodles of line experience and throw them in front of a keyboard to write the manuals, thus the rough grammar, etc. And blindly copying what somebody else wrote means replicating their errors (if any). He agrees but says that he has NEVER seen various things that I show him in any other tech manuals by other companies in this industry.
So what is the official rule for the use of hyphenated modifiers. Like I said, this is VERY minor but good writing is supposed to be correct in punctuation as well as word usage, etc. And this isn't even a tech writing rule, but a punctuation rule that should apply everywhere.

So if anyone has a website (ESPECIALLY a heavy construction equipment website) that shows correct usage, or a website that states the correct punctuation rules, I'd be much obliged. Hopefully, I'll be able to reference it for future "things."

-- Ken in Atlanta
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