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  1. 5jj's Avatar
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    #1

    over(ly) prescriptive.

    In a recent thread, I wrote, of a comment on a point of grammar I had made, "[perhaps] I am being overly prescriptive here". I meant, "excessively prescriptive". When I read the post after I had submitted it, I wondered if "over-prescriptive" would have been better. Then I began to wonder if there was any difference.

    The context was that I felt that one structure could be interpreted in only one way, and quoted a leading writer on grammar in support of my view. Two respected members of the forum said that it could be interpreted in another way. They appear to be right.

    So, was I being overly prescriptive, or over-prescriptive, and is there any difference?

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    #2

    Re: over(ly) prescriptive.

    The AHD says that the prefix "over-" "is joined with the following element without space or a hyphen". (over- - definition of over- by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.)

    I'm certainly not the right person to answer the question, but I would be interested to know what the reason is behind it. Is it just an intangible feeling or something that can be explained? I'm asking because I can't see what could be wrong about "overly" here.

  2. emka's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: over(ly) prescriptive.

    Interesting question. I don't perceive any difference between the two. But as a non-native user of English I might be wrong and told otherwise.
    However, if there really isn't any difference, I would again - like with less/fewer - tend to interpret it as economising syllables. Overly prescriptive is longer. Over-prescriptive is one syllable shorter. Speakers like to save their breath, I have noticed.

  3. 5jj's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: over(ly) prescriptive.

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    The AHD says that the prefix "over-" "is joined with the following element without space or a hyphen". ...
    I wondered about that. I finally decided on the hyphen because I thought that overprescriptive was not a word that is commonly seen.

    ... I would be interested to know what the reason is behind it. Is it just an intangible feeling or something that can be explained? I'm asking because I can't see what could be wrong about "overly" here.
    I am reasonably certain in my own mind that overly is fine. It is simply that I had one of those moments when one looks at a word and thinks, "Why did I choose this word? Why not that one? Is there a difference?" Had I not been in the forum at the time, it would have passed. It just occurred to me that, as I was here, it would be interesting to see what others thought.

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    #5

    Re: over(ly) prescriptive.

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    In a recent thread, I wrote, of a comment on a point of grammar I had made, "[perhaps] I am being overly prescriptive here".
    That's how I would have said it, fivejedjon.

  4. 5jj's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: over(ly) prescriptive.

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    The AHD says that the prefix "over-" "is joined with the following element without space or a hyphen". (over- - definition of over- by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.)
    The question has been raised here: Hyphenation (general)

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    #7

    Re: over(ly) prescriptive.

    I think overly may give more subjective room for manoeuvre.

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