The Hyphen-weary Life

Subject: The Hyphen-weary Life
From: John Wilcox <john -at- SYNTAX -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 15 Nov 1995 10:36:56 -0800

> Date: Wed, 15 Nov 1995 11:47:32 -0500
> From: Win Day <winday -at- IDIRECT -dot- COM>
> Subject: Re: The Life-weary Hyphen

> But wouldn't it be easier to understand:

> the light-weight pale blue car,

> thus using the hyphen properly, but differently?

Wait a sec. Shouldn't that be "the light-weight, pale-blue car"?

I'm just kidding. Well, not entirely. It seems there is no hard and
fast rule. Or should that be "hard-and-fast rule"? Here's a rule of
thumb I use:

If each of two or more modifiers cannot be used separately without
making the condition false, a hyphen is necessary.

Take, for example, "the powder blue car". Could you say "the blue car"?
Yes. Could you say "the powder car"? No. Therefore, a hyphen is
necessary. But how about "the pale blue car"? Could you say "the pale
car"? Probably not, but possibly. So the hyphen is what, optional? If
we took a poll on this list, I'm sure there would be no overwhelming
consensus. And that's just among tech writers, so no wonder there's so
much confusion out there in the world of hyphen sinners. Or is that
hyphen-sinners? Ack!! <Norman, please coordinate.>

John Wilcox <john -at- syntax -dot- com>
Senior Technical Writer
Syntax, Inc., 840 S. 333rd St., Federal Way, WA 98003-6343 USA
voice 206-838-2626, fax 206-838-9836,

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