Re: About anal-retentive...

Subject: Re: About anal-retentive...
From: "Dennis Hays/The Burden Lake Group, Ltd." <dlhays -at- EARTHLINK -dot- NET>
Date: Fri, 14 Mar 1997 14:23:16 -0500

At 02:04 PM 3/14/97 -0800, Michael Andrew wrote:
>I have an editing question about "anal-retentive"...
>and a comment....
>Is "anal-retentive" really supposed hyphenated?
The following is from Philip Golabuk's Cool Writing Tip Of The Day (Philip
is a life-long friend of mine and he doesn't mind if I quote him here):

I received a suggestion from Guy Haas that this week's Free Cool Writing
Tip (FCWT) address the question of compounds, words elided to make new
ones, coinages legitimized by usage. Guy's example was "email," a
contraction from "electronic mail," and other examples abound. Usage has
established "email" rather than, say, "e-mail," or worse, "e mail," so
there isn't a problem. But Guy's question is a good one, because it isn't
always clear when the compound should be open, when closed, and when
hyphenated. Which construction is authoritative? Is there a principle to
help us decide?

Apart from consulting the dictionary, which is supposed to be the watchdog
of usage (but may not itself be beyond the reproach of your best judgment,
or your ear,) we can remember that typically, new compounds tend to begin
as open, slip predictably into hyphenated form, and finally earn closed
compound status, with each stage dictated by some foggy level of
established use and, ideally, reflected in the current lexicons.

My sense of language and the flow of compounds suggests using the closed
compound unless it either contradicts current usage or looks weird. This
also applies to composite words with prefixes (e.g., "email"). So, I would
naturally avoid "reenter" because the quick read is a judo throw,
suggesting some phonetic critter that rhymes with "seen her." "Re-enter" is
more stable. Oddly, When email first made its appearance, I saw "e-mail" a
good bit. No more. This word has matured, already, into a closed composite.
At the level of compounds, the same principle applies in general, and here
we want to remember that hyphenation is needed if the compound is an
adjective that comes before the noun it modifies, and isn't closed; no
hyphen if the adjectival compound comes after its noun, so: "a
fast-approaching car" but "a car that's fast approaching."

I would like to see closed compounds used, even without dictionary
endorsement, in cases where there is nothing in the spelling to trip the
reader up visually, so: "openhearted" and "closedminded" seem fine to me,
whereas"dogeared" is a problem (the "ear" wants the "g," leaving us with a
"do gear"; "dog-eared" is the straighter shot. Interestingly, in "dog
eared" the compound meaning has flown with the hyphen, at least to the eye
and the quick read.

In summary: Consult the dictionary for a ruling on established usage.
Beyond this, stay with closed compounds (and closed composite, prefixed
words, e.g., "cooperate") unless the closure creates a visual/phonetic
misread, e.g., "antiintellectual." (The hyphen here would put an end to the
problem, and more quickly than the European "diacritical" solution of
putting an umlaut over the second instance of the vowel.) Work as much as
possible with the tendency toward closed composites, e.g., "email" rather
than "e-mail," and don't be afraid to pioneer a little. Open compounds
acting as adjectives need hyphenation if they show up before the noun they
modify, no hyphenation if after.

__________End of Quote_________

I hope this helps...


Dennis Hays
The Burden Lake Group, Ltd.
Telephone: (518) 477-6388
Facsimile: (518) 477-5006
eMail: dlhays -at- earthlink -dot- net
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