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  1. emka's Avatar
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    #1

    Hyphenation (general)

    I have just noticed that, in another thread, I wrote "sub-category" and "subcategory" in one and the same post. Very sloppy. Of course I should have used consistent spelling in one document. Mea culpa.

    Hyphenation is one area I have major trouble with. I don't know how to go about it, so I do it by gut feeling and usually only strive for consistency within one document. It is simply not practical to look up every compound word in dictionaries. Even if I do sometimes, I often find that both variants are listed.

    But - is there any tendency? A trend to drop the hyphen? Or a trend to write compound nouns together?
    Health care, health-care, healthcare?

    (This is not about using a hyphen to mark which elements belong together when there are more than two, e.g. health-care staff or single-use health-care products).

    A rule of thumb would really help me greatly.

  2. 5jj's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Hyphenation (general)

    In his Practical English Usage, Michael Swan says, "The rules about hyphens are complicated, and rules are not yet clear [...] The situation at present is rather confused,and it is not unusual to find the same expression spelt in three different ways. (e.g. bookshop, book-shop, book shop)"

    Swan feels that, perhaps because of the confusion, people are using hyphens less, preferring to write the two parts as one word.

  3. emka's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Hyphenation (general)

    Great. Thanks.
    This also coincides with the German way of writing compound nouns of up to three elements, so it's easy to remember. I think I should take Swan's Practical English Usage out of my bookshelf again, where it has been collecting dust over the past few years, and make it bedside reading

  4. JohnParis's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Hyphenation (general)

    Dear Emka
    Hyphens are a pain, and as Fivejedjon points out, there are no clear rules that you can rely on. I’d just like to add that the example you gave, health care, is a particularly good one. This is my field of work, and over the years I have watched the term evolve from two separate words, to a hyphenated set and now, finally, to one single word. I believe this happened out of a desire for simplicity and clarity. Oddly enough, the people that influence this sort of thing were, originally, proof readers who evolved in the 70s to proof-readers and have now become proofreaders. I always found this interesting; might we end up doing the same with airline pilots or thoracic surgeons? Not so sure…

    John
    PS: Swan is a fantastic guide, but I recently found The Economist's Style Guide (10th edition) to be fun and even humorous.
    * The Economist’s Style Guide (10th edition)
    ISBN-10: 1846681758
    ISBN-13: 978-1846681752
    Last edited by JohnParis; 15-Oct-2011 at 10:26. Reason: spacing and I added a postscript

  5. 5jj's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Hyphenation (general)

    Quote Originally Posted by emka View Post
    I think I should take Swan's Practical English Usage out of my bookshelf again, where it has been collecting dust over the past few years, and make it bedside reading
    I am a native speaker of English, have a couple of degrees in English, TEFL qualifications, and have taught English for many years. I still refer to Swan frequently, and have done so more frequently since I joined this forum.

    Even when I know the answer to a question, Swan confirms that my feelings are in line with what is generally accepted, and he gives clear and concise explanations with helpful examples. I find my large grammars, Quirk et al, Huddleston and Pullum, etc, invaluable for my academic interest in grammar, but Swan is more useful for teaching and learning purposes.

    He is not infallible, but he doesn't often let me down.
    'Practical English Usage' by Michael Swan

    Swan, Michael (1980) Practical English Usage (3rd ed, 2005), Oxford: OUP
    Quirk, Randolph, Greenbaum, Sidney, Leech, Geoffrey and Svartik, Jan (1985) A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, London: Longman
    Huddleston, Rodney & Pullum, Geoffrey K (2002) The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, Cambridge: CUP

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