Punctuation Quiz #23: Hyphenation

By Mark Nichol

Choose the sentence in which the compounds are hyphenated correctly:

1.
a) Sometimes he behaves like a five-year-old child.
b) Sometimes he behaves like a five year old child.

2.
a) Treatment for cyanide poisoning includes a small inhaled dose of amyl nitrite, followed by intravenous sodium nitrite, followed by intravenous sodium thiosulfate.
b) Treatment for cyanide poisoning includes a small inhaled dose of amyl-nitrite, followed by intravenous sodium-nitrite, followed by intravenous sodium-thiosulfate.

3.
a) To prove his point, he made use of an a-priori argument.
b) To prove his point, he made use of an a priori argument.

4.
a) We travelled northeast for twenty miles, then turned and went east-northeast for another five.
b) We travelled northeast for twenty miles, then turned and went eastnortheast for another five.

5.
a) Mr. Monk was not satisfied with a half hour session.
b) Mr. Monk was not satisfied with a half-hour session.

Answers and Explanations

1.
a) Sometimes he behaves like a five-year-old child.
Age terms are hyphenated in their adjective forms.

2.
a) Treatment for cyanide poisoning includes a small inhaled dose of amyl nitrite, followed by intravenous sodium nitrite, followed by intravenous sodium thiosulfate.
Chemical terms are not hyphenated, neither as nouns or adjectives.

3.
b) To prove his point, he made use of an a priori argument.
Foreign expressions that are not hyphenated in the source language are are not hyphenated in English.

4.
a) We travelled northeast for twenty miles, then turned and went east-northeast for another five.
Compass points and directions are closed in their noun, adjective and adverb forms, unless three directions are combined. In that case, a hyphen is placed after the first direction.

5.
b) Mr. Monk was not satisfied with a half-hour session.
A compound formed with a fraction is hyphenated when it’s used as an adjective.

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8 Responses to “Punctuation Quiz #23: Hyphenation”

  • D.A.W.

    I just saw it on an American TV program – shamefully so. On “Dancing with the Stars” — “semi-final”.
    I need to tell them “Get this through your heads”:
    semifinal, quarterfinal, semiautomatic, semibreve, semicircle, semiconductor, semiformal, semimonthly, semirural, semistable, (a term in the writings of the famous mathematician Andrew Wiles).
    [in the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem].

  • venqax

    “Traveled” is spelled just this way in American English”.Very good point. I noticed that as well. That drives me crazy, especially, for some reason, the word cancelled, spelled as such, which I see a lot. The rule is that if the second syllable of the root word is stressed, then the L is doubled. So controlled, patrolled, enrolled, If second syllable is unstressed, the L stays single. therefore modeled, labeled, canceled, and TRAVELED. same rule for -ing endings.

  • D.A.W.

    You might do some checking and find out if these names are hyphenated are not: Urbana Champaign, Winston Salem, Wilkes Barre, Raleigh Durham, La Canada Flintridge, Midland Odessa, Charles Kingsford Smith, George Leigh Mallory.
    This name definitely is Winfred Hyde-White. He was an important actor in the film “My Fair Lady”.

  • D.A.W.

    “Dunedin” is just another Scottish (from the Gaelic) way of spelling “Edinburgh”. Interestingly, there have been ships in the Royal Navy named both the HMS Dunedin and the HMS Edinburgh.
    “Edinburg”, Texas, is spelled this way because according to the geographic committee of the U.S. Post Office, no place named is the U.S. are allowed to end in “burgh” except for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Hence, “Pittsburg, Kansas”, and “Petersburg, Virginia.”
    There are place names that end in “borough”. We have places with names like Middleboro, Middleburg, and Middleborough but “Farnborough” is hard to find.
    In England, that place Farnborough is two counties west of London, and in even-numbered years, it is the location of the world-famous Farnborough Air Show. Then in odd-numbered years, they hold the world famous Paris Air Show.

  • D.A.W.

    “Traveled” is spelled just this way in American English”.

    Similar words are modeled, groveled, leveled, pedaled, peddled, and
    “Releveler” (a trademarked gardening machine).
    I just love words like “releveler”, “rotavator”, and “rotovotor”.
    Of course, you could drop down a couple of steps to “rotor” and “radar”.

  • D.A.W.

    When it comes to the compass directions, Mr. Nichol has said it exactly the way that Americans and Canadians know how to do it: no hyphens in the simple ones! The Northwest Territories, the Northeastern States, southeastern Ontario, southwestern Saskatchewan, the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest Pacific Theater of Operations, commanded by General MacArthur of the U.S. Army.
    It is the ruddy British and their cohorts who insist in writing strange forms like “Newcastle is in the North East of England”, “Victoria is in South-East Australia,” and “MacArthur was the Allied commander of the South-West Pacific Theatre of Operations.”
    No, Cumbria is not really in the North West of England. Cumbria is in northwestern England. Dunedin, in southeastern New Zealand, and Albany, in southwestern Australia, were both named for places in Scotland, just as were Albany, New York; Dunedin, Florida; Edinburg, Texas; New Glasgow, Nova Scotia; and New Caledonia.
    Interestingly, some places like Albany, Georgia, were named for Albany, New York!

  • D.A.W.

    I agree with Mel: “neither… nor”

    Further, the flat statement “Chemical terms not hyphenated” is untrue, and I can give you some examples.
    5- fluorouracil , which is a well-known anticancer drug. It is a variant of the nucleic acid uracil, with a hydrogen atom replaced by a fluorine. 5-fluorouracil works by sabotaging the production of RNA in cancer cells. Quite ingenious. 5-fluorouracil is on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines, right along with the important antibiotics, antimalarials, antipain, antiseizure, and antilipid medications.
    1,2-dimethyl hydrazine is a well-known kind of rocket fuel, and also a dangerous carcinogen (!) . This one is called UMDH for short, and that means “unsymmetrical dimethyl-hydrazine”. UMDH is used along with the oxidizer nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4) in a quite clever way: UMDH and N2O4 burn on contact, and so they do not need any kind of ignition system. [This “hypergolic” combination has been used in American, ESA, and Soviet/Russian rockets and missiles, such as the Titan series of ICBMs and space booster rockets.]
    A different version of this hydrazine is 1,1-dimethyl-hydrazine, but the problem with it is that this “symmetrical dimethyl-hydrazine” is harder to make, and thus much more expensive.
    A somewhat simpler kind of rocket fuel is used in satellites and space probes sometimes: monomethyl hydrazine. It is nice in that it does not require a separate oxidizer, but rather it can be ignited with a metallic catalyst.
    The terms monomethylhydrazine and dimethylhydrazine can be written without hyphens, too, just like magnetohydrodynamics and quantum chromodynamics (QED).

  • Mel

    The answer to #1 says “Chemical terms are not hyphenated, neither as nouns or adjectives.”

    Shouldn’t that be “neither as nouns nor as adjectives”?

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