If you’re the betting type, and you wager on whether a given word beginning with a prefix is attached directly to the root word or linked with a hyphen, bet against the hyphen: The trend—in American English, at least—is to close prefixed words and compound words. However, you won’t always win, because there are exceptions, even among words beginning with a particular prefix. Take the prefix co-, for example.
The grammatical convention known as suspensive hyphenation is employed when two or more adjacent and parallel phrasal adjectives, phrases that in tandem modify a noun that follows them, have a common element in the same position. Elision of one of the repeated words because it is clearly implicit is a common strategy, but misuse of suspensive hyphenation can complicate a sentence rather than simplify it, as the examples below demonstrate. (Each sentence is accompanied by a discussion and a solution.)
All but one of the following sentences are incorrect; insert or omit a hyphen in the others as necessary.
In each of the sentences below, superfluous punctuation interrupts the flow of the sentence. Discussion and revision of each example indicates the correct treatment of the statements.
Innumerable missteps in constructing sentences are possible. Here are five random statements with assorted obstacles to comprehension, each accompanied by discussion and a revision.
Writers frequently neglect to connect two words that together constitute a single grammatical unit modifying a noun that follows them. This error of omission is even more likely when the phrasal adjective consists of more than two words. The following sentences demonstrate such errors, and a discussion and a revision follow each example.
What’s the difference between an atheist and an agnostic? As with most words, the answer lies in the etymological origins of the words.
All but one of the following sentences demonstrate incorrect style for styling dates according to The Chicago Manual of Style; revise the style of the number as necessary.
Each of the following sentences omits or misuses punctuation, resulting in possible confusion when a word or phrase is attached to a main clause or a transition occurs. Discussion and revision explain and resolve each error.
Technology certainly created a period of prosperity for writers all around the world. Before the advent of the Web making money as a freelance writer was relatively difficult, because you had a limited number of local publications to work with. Today, on the other hand, there are literally tens of thousands of publications online, on all sorts of niches, and writing for one of them is sometimes just a matter of reaching out with an email!
The term hack, which entered general usage with a new, nontechnological sense of “solution” or “work-around,” as in the phrase “life hack,” in the previous decade has undergone an impressive divergence in meanings since it entered the English lexicon hundreds of years ago. However, as with the synonym kludge (also spelled kluge), the etymological origin of the word is disputed.
The words marquee and marquis are sometimes confused. Though they have distinct meanings, interestingly enough, one of the terms begat the other.