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HD: Ranting About Hyphens
Posted: 05 December 2012 05:00 AM   [ Ignore ]
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She calls it a “rant,” but it really isn’t. If only more people addressed their pet peeves in this fashion.

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Posted: 05 December 2012 07:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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What a delightful piece!

Pet peeves are “sour candies.” Gotta love it.

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Posted: 05 December 2012 08:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Dave writes:

I had no idea that that an en dash was the proper mark to use in the adjective pre–Civil War. It seems, at least according to Chicago, that an en-dash is used instead of hyphen when linking an open compound (i. e., Civil War) with another adjective or prefix.

Actually, this was discussed in this old thread, a mere nine-and-a-half years ago.

Edit: looking at the old thread, I note that yukufication has stripped the en-dash out of my “pink pill–making”, turning it into “pink pillmaking” and obliterating the point I was trying to make.

[ Edited: 05 December 2012 08:15 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 05 December 2012 11:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I had no idea that that an en dash was the proper mark to use in the adjective pre–Civil War. It seems, at least according to Chicago, that an en-dash is used instead of hyphen when linking an open compound (i. e., Civil War) with another adjective or prefix.

Is it “en dash” or “en-dash” or is it both and I’m missing the subtle difference in usage?

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Posted: 05 December 2012 11:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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It’s a style choice. Chicago uses en dash. And I just screwed up.

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Posted: 05 December 2012 07:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Judging from my students’ essays, the hyphen, along with its cousin the dash, is probably the most misused punctuation mark, and Ms Doll’s article addresses the proper usage

(my bolding)

Seems a little prescriptivist. ;-) (I realise you are referring to adherence to required styles.)

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Posted: 06 December 2012 01:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I’ve always used the shorter hyphen between words and the longer dash to indicate a pause or instead of brackets, in a sentence.  Is this right or wrong and if wrong, in what way is it misleading?  It just makes life a lot simpler.

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Posted: 06 December 2012 03:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Yes, it is a bit prescriptivist. Punctuation along with spelling are the two areas where rigorous rules should be enforced. Unlike speaking and hearing, writing and reading are unnatural acts and deviating from the expected forms only leads to difficulties for the reader. Which is not to say there aren’t some situations where punctuation is a matter of style, the Oxford comma being the most famous example, but for the most part the rules are inflexible.

Hyphen: Primarily used to divide words at line breaks and to connect the elements of compound words (e.g., ill-fated expedition).

En dash: Primarily used to indicate a range of dates or other values (e.g., Dave Brubeck, 1920–2012).

Em dash: Primarily used in lieu of a comma, colon, semicolon, or parentheses to indicate an abrupt break in thought (e.g., “I heard a new order of knighthood is on the tapis—O.M.G. (Oh! My God!)—Shower it on the Admiralty.") It’s a stronger, more abrupt break than a comma or semicolon, but weaker than a period/full stop.

When writing prose, one should not insert a space before or after a hyphen or dash, but spaces can be acceptable in advertisements and other media where the visual presentation is paramount.

There are other uses and subtleties, such as the use of an en dash with to connect an open compound, but these are the most common ones.

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Posted: 06 December 2012 05:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Dave Wilton - 06 December 2012 03:30 AM

Yes, it is a bit prescriptivist. Punctuation along with spelling are the two areas where rigorous rules should be enforced. Unlike speaking and hearing, writing and reading are unnatural acts and deviating from the expected forms only leads to difficulties for the reader. Which is not to say there aren’t some situations where punctuation is a matter of style, the Oxford comma being the most famous example, but for the most part the rules are inflexible.

Hyphen: Primarily used to divide words at line breaks and to connect the elements of compound words (e.g., ill-fated expedition).

En dash: Primarily used to indicate a range of dates or other values (e.g., Dave Brubeck, 1920–2012).

Em dash: Primarily used in lieu of a comma, colon, semicolon, or parentheses to indicate an abrupt break in thought (e.g., “I heard a new order of knighthood is on the tapis—O.M.G. (Oh! My God!)—Shower it on the Admiralty.") It’s a stronger, more abrupt break than a comma or semicolon, but weaker than a period/full stop.

When writing prose, one should not insert a space before or after a hyphen or dash, but spaces can be acceptable in advertisements and other media where the visual presentation is paramount.

There are other uses and subtleties, such as the use of an en dash with to connect an open compound, but these are the most common ones.

This would make some sense if the common reader knew what to expect and if the “proper” use of hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes were more easily available than by some means that varies from browser to browser and OS to OS. This is like requiring people to follow rules they don’t understand by means they don’t comprehend.

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Posted: 06 December 2012 06:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I didn’t much care for that rant (and yes, it was a rant, which is fine—I enjoy a good rant).  Strike one:

So what was once a compound word might not be (see below, my opinions on e-mail) as time passes and different spellings become accepted and even the norm. This is just the trickiness of grammar.

Punctuation is not grammar, for pete’s sake!  If you can’t figure that out, you shouldn’t be writing about this stuff.

Strike two:

I’ll put this out there, too, though: I’m against e-mail, but, yes, it is in the dictionary, there with the hyphen, all bold and yappy, so if I’m to be anything but hypocritical I should probably adopt it. (I won’t. I’m staunchly anti-email-hyphen. Give it a few years and that hyphen will be toast, and don’t even try to convince me on “on-line.")

Yeah, you’re a hypocrite.  If you’re going to throw the dictionary in people’s faces, you need to accept it even when you don’t like what it says.

No strike three, so I’m not calling her out, but still, not my favorite piece of writing.  And she didn’t even mention the famous quote which is pretty much requisite in these discussions: “If you take hyphens seriously, you will surely go mad.” (John Benbow, editor of the stylebook of the Oxford University Press.)

This is like requiring people to follow rules they don’t understand by means they don’t comprehend.

No, you are not required to know, let alone follow, these rules.  That’s what copyeditors are for.

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Posted: 06 December 2012 08:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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No, you are not required to know, let alone follow, these rules. That’s what copyeditors are for.

Sense at last. Unfortunately, unable to afford my own personal copy editor, I’ll just carry on as I always have done.  At least I’m being consistent.  And if keep on calling them hyphens and dashes, you’ll have to excuse me because at least I’ll know what I’m talking about, even if nobody else does.  All I want to know is how to make my writing easy for readers to understand, so I’ll use the short stroke in-between words (sic) and the longer one - like this - to mark out parts of a sentence. The only trouble is that my computer doesn’t know the difference.

Why don’t they make all fonts prescriptivist?

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Posted: 06 December 2012 01:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Hyphen -
Alt.  0150 –
Alt.  0151 —

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Posted: 06 December 2012 02:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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If it’s not important enough to be obvious on my keyboard, it’s not going to be used in everyday typing.

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Posted: 06 December 2012 04:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Skibberoo - 06 December 2012 01:34 PM

Hyphen -
Alt.  0150 –
Alt.  0151 —

That works fine on a Windows machine.  On my LInux machine I have to go to LibreOffice and find them with Insert Special Character.

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Posted: 06 December 2012 08:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Faldage - 06 December 2012 04:04 PM

Skibberoo - 06 December 2012 01:34 PM
Hyphen -
Alt.  0150 –
Alt.  0151 —

That works fine on a Windows machine.  On my LInux machine I have to go to LibreOffice and find them with Insert Special Character.

On this particular linux box:

[Please Note: the “M“‘s shown below are simply for showing scale]

Hold down ctrl+shift, then type u2010 (on the qwerty board, not the numpad), then release ctrl+shift = M‐M
Hold down ctrl+shift, then type u2011 (on the qwerty board, not the numpad), then release ctrl+shift = M‑M
Hold down ctrl+shift, then type u2012 (on the qwerty board, not the numpad), then release ctrl+shift = M‒M
Hold down ctrl+shift, then type u2013 (on the qwerty board, not the numpad), then release ctrl+shift = M–M
Hold down ctrl+shift, then type u2014 (on the qwerty board, not the numpad), then release ctrl+shift = M—M
Hold down ctrl+shift, then type u2015 (on the qwerty board, not the numpad), then release ctrl+shift = M―M

2010 is HYPHEN
2011 is NON-BREAKING HYPHEN
2012 is FIGURE DASH
2013 is EN DASH
2014 is EM DASH
2015 is HORIZONTAL BAR quotation dash

Of course, how this works depends on how the fonts are set up on a particular machine.

One may use the character map, there is a handy search feature available there. Search for “dash” without the quote marks, and look for the full word.

[ Edited: 06 December 2012 08:40 PM by sobiest ]
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Posted: 06 December 2012 09:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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If, as Dave says, “...deviating from the expected forms only leads to difficulties for the reader” and if it is also true that as LH says, “No you are not required to know, let alone follow, these rules.  That’s what copyeditors are for” then it would appear that the only readers having “difficulties” with dashes are copyeditors.

I’m relieved to hear that. I know I’ve never felt troubled by them and I was starting to think my bliss was ignorance.

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