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  1. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #11

    Re: test positive for...

    Maybe we'll think differently in a few months with all this testing. It was around not much more than a decade that people were arguing that an email was wrong because mail was uncountable. It barely sound coherent now. With universal testing, things may shift in the next few months. Things are moving fast with the illness. The language of technology never stays still, and rarely respects the past.

    It could simply be that people had HIV tests, but being cleared wasn't such an issue because once you were clear you pretty much knew you could control being clear. I took one HIV test in the 1990s. Since then I know that only a dirty needle could be a problem. Covid-19 may require repeat testing so the language may be different. If the testing is different, the phrasing may change.

  2. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #12

    Re: test positive for...

    Yikes. I puzzled over to-hyphen-or-not-to-hyphen, too. Moral: Always be grammatical and if you can't be grammatical, be consistent.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  3. Phaedrus's Avatar
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    #13

    Re: test positive for...

    Quote Originally Posted by tedmc View Post
    Since it is a compound adjective, shouldn't it be hyphenated as one word viz. "covid-19-positive" as G S has hyphenated "HIV-positive"?
    A case could actually be made for using the en dash instead of the hyphen:

    COVID-19–positive

    Since "19" is joined to "COVID" by a hyphen, the en dash between "19" and "positive" clarifies that "positive" belongs to the preceding hyphenated duo.

  4. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #14

    Re: test positive for...

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    Yikes. I puzzled over to-hyphen-or-not-to-hyphen, too. Moral: Always be grammatical — and if you can't be grammatical, be consistent.
    And if you can't be consistent....

  5. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #15

    Re: test positive for...

    Quote Originally Posted by Phaedrus View Post
    A case could actually be made for using the en dash instead of the hyphen:

    COVID-19–positive

    Since "19" is joined to "COVID" by a hyphen, the en dash between "19" and "positive" clarifies that "positive" belongs to the preceding hyphenated duo.
    I have to confess that I have always ignored the difference between the em and en dashes- they're all dashes to me.

  6. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #16

    Re: test positive for...

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    I have to confess that I have always ignored the difference between the em and en dashes- they're all dashes to me.
    It's easier to think of them as dashes (ems) that separate words and hyphens (ens) that connect them.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  7. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #17

    Re: test positive for...

    Still not convinced. It's like worrying about whether it's a present participle or a gerund.

  8. Phaedrus's Avatar
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    #18

    Re: test positive for...

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    I have to confess that I have always ignored the difference between the em and en dashes- they're all dashes to me.
    Hyphens join words together. In the use I propose above, the en dash functions similarly to a hyphen, but it joins a group of words to another word.

    En dashes are also commonly used when they do not join words together but indicate a relationship between them often specified by a preposition:

    the subject–object distinction = the distinction between subject and object
    the teacher–student relationship = the relationship between teacher and student ("teacher-students" would be teachers who are themselves students)
    French–English translations = translations from French to English ("French-English" would presumably be some sort of hybrid language)

    In none of the above cases would an em dash work instead; however, you could get away with an em dash in "pages 103–105" (= pages 103 to 105).

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    #19

    Re: test positive for...

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    I have to confess that I have always ignored the difference between the em and en dashes - they're all dashes to me.
    Unless we were employed in the printing trade, none of us had heard about the different kinds of dashes in the past. Indeed, as few word processor/computer keyboards have a separate key for the em dash even today, I don't think many of us bother about this. If I write for publication, I leave it to the publisher's editor to change some of my dashes if that keeps them happy
    Typoman - writer of rongs

  10. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #20

    Re: test positive for...

    I got through a lot of my life without knowing about them, and couldn't get worked up when I did learn. I'll leave it to publishers too.

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