View Full Version : two grammar issues
06-11-2002, 08:38 AM
1) What is the authoritative dictionary for American usage of Englsih?
2) Can somebody give me a good rule on when to hyphenate words. E.g., my boss wants to put the hyphen in this sentance: "These concerns are well-founded." I want to take it out. Meanwhile, he wants to take the hypen out of this sentence while I want to keep it in: "... 24 million school-age children between the ages of five and 14 require care while parents are at work."
06-11-2002, 08:47 AM
Originally posted by drhess
1) What is the authoritative dictionary for American usage of English?
I would say that is The Dictionary of American Regional English, though the American Heritage Dictionary will do for most uses.
2) Can somebody give me a good rule on when to hyphenate words.
Hyphenate words when not hyphenating them would lead to confusion.
Hope this helps.
06-11-2002, 08:53 AM
Compound adjectives should be hyphenated. You are correct in both your examples and your boss is wrong. In the first case, "well founded" is not a compound adjective; it is an adverb ("well") modifying an adjective ("founded"). Adverbs are not hyphenated unless they are functioning as adjectives (but not when they end with "ly"). If the sentence read, "He had well-founded concerns about blah blah blah," then you would hyphenate.
06-11-2002, 09:30 AM
The best guide to compounding is the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual. In includes Rules for compounding (http://www.access.gpo.gov/styleman/2000/chapter_txt-6.html) and examples (http://www.access.gpo.gov/styleman/2000/chapter_txt-7.html). It's also got a lot of other great stuff about Capitalization, etc. that doesn't seem to be covered elsewhere.
As far as an "authoritative" dictionary, there isn't one. Everyone has their preferences. The American Heritage is a good one, but there are also various style manuals that deal with issues like these (The Washington Post Style Manual, AP Style Manual, GPO Style Manual, Chicago Manual of Style, etc.). Pick one and use it consistently.
06-11-2002, 09:42 AM
But it's fair to write high school teacher and not high-school teacher because of common usage? I.e., nobody thinks you meant a high (doped out) school teacher....
06-11-2002, 09:49 AM
I would always write "high-school teacher" because, besides the fact that compound adjectives should be hyphenated, there is room for ambiguity if you leave the hyphen out. Example:
Joe Smith was arrested for possession of cocaine yesterday at Dover Academy. Caught red-handed, the high school teacher said he had only been drinking lots of espresso and the packet in his shirt was powdered sugar."
Now, does Joe teach at high school? Or is he a teacher of an unspecified grade level who was high on drugs when caught? Hyphenation would completely avoid any possible misunderstanding of the sentence.
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