Chocolate Covered or Chocolate-Covered?
Knowing when to hyphenate a word and when to write it as two words or as a compound is a difficult concept for me to master.
According to OWL (Purdue’s Online Writing Lab) guidelines, two or more words that serve as a single adjective before a noun, are hyphenated:
BUT when these compound modifiers come after a noun, they are not hyphenated:
The peanuts were chocolate covered.
The author was well known.
Not everyone follows the bit about modifiers before a noun.
A Google search comes up with a lot of things covered in chocolate without the hyphen:
How to Make Homemade Chocolate Covered Cherries
CHOCOLATE COVERED PRETZELS
Chocolate Covered Spoons
That’s not to say that I didn’t find hyphenated versions, such as this headline for what seems to me a dubious treat :
Homemade Chocolate-Covered Bacon
In 2007 the Shorter OED made news when the sixth edition dropped the hyphens in 16,000 compounds.
Some of the changes combined formerly hyphenated constructions such as bumble-bee and cry-baby into single words:
Many formerly hyphenated words lost their hyphens and won independence as two separate words:
These words are nouns, not adjectives, but the hyphen or no hyphen question applies to them. Not every dictionary agrees with the OED.
The practical course for writers is to settle on one dictionary of choice and be consistent.
Like so many other linguistic changes that have occurred in recent times, this dumping of the hyphen has been blamed on internet communications. Texters don’t like to bother with hyphens, so hyphens must go!
So why are we still writing e-mail?
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