Re: Sickness of the hyphen

Subject: Re: Sickness of the hyphen
From: wburns -at- MICRON -dot- COM
Date: Wed, 15 Nov 1995 09:26:36 MDT

Barclay says:

>They way I remember how to use hyphens is that they connect the words
>before a noun (adjectives or other nouns used as adjectives) that
>modify each other, not the noun. (Huh?)

I don't think so. Compound modifiers work together to modify a noun.
They don't modify the noun separately (as in your first example). In some
cases a noun and a modifying adjective compose the compound, so it may seem
that the first modifies the second which modifies the third. I tend to listen
to the primary stress in compounds. Often only one primary stress occurs in a
compound modifier. In your example, if it had two primary stresses (light'
blue' car) it would clearly not be a compound and should be separated by
commas to clarify the meaning. If a single primary stress occurs (light' blue
car), then it's clearly a compound modifier.

This method doesn't work in all cases, and it doesn't explain why compound
modifiers are hyphenated when they follow (a practice with which I
disagree). What I find irritating is the common misconception that prefixes
like "pre" and "post" need to be hyphenated.

Bill Burns *
Assm. Technical Writer/Editor * LIBERTY, n. One of imagination's most
Micron Technology, Inc. * precious possessions.
Boise, ID *
WBURNS -at- VAX -dot- MICRON -dot- COM * Ambrose Bierce

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