Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hyphen-powered Punctuation

I realize you all know this. I love hyphens. So needless to say, I use them often. It's a rare occurrence for me to take pause, stymied by the proper use of this lovely and under-utilized punctuation mark. But it happened to me just a few days ago.

It wasn't a bad thing. I got to use my new, blue Chicago Manual of Style. Have I told you how much I love my new CMS? No? Oh, yes, I do love it. It's so wonderfully new and improved, including the cover color. How improved is it? Check out the changes in Edition 16 by clicking here. Included is a new and improved hyphenation guide! Now tell me if you've heard of anything cooler than that in the past week.

So back to my hyphenation dilemma. I was editing a blog post which referred to a children's book written for 5 to 8 year olds. I knew that was wrong. 5 to 8-year-olds. Nope. Hmmm. 5-8-year-olds. Wow, that really didn't look correct. What does the CMS say?

It states in the section about compounds and hyphenation related to age terms, in category 7.84 Omission of part of a hyphenated expression: When the second part of a hypenated expression is omitted, the hyphen is retained, followed by a space. So the correct way to write the above is:

5- 8-year-olds

See the space after that first hyphen? That's the correct way to write this. Doesn't knowing that just make your day? Yes, it's true. Editors geek out on this sort of stuff and it thrills us to the core. How about you? Do you have the new Chicago Manual of Style? How often can we find you poking around in it? Go ahead, confess! You are among friends.
~~~~~~~
When not reading fascinating tomes like the Chicago Manual of Style and her favorite dictionary, Dani Greer is managing this blog, planning her next blog book tours class (which begins on September 5th and is free to authors with a new book to promote), and is special projects coordinator for Little Pickle Press.

16 comments :

  1. Who knew? Fun (and informative) post!

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  2. Well, Dani, I don't get quite as excited as you do about a hyphen. LOL

    I have an older version of the CMS, and you are right, this new one has a lovely cover. I do use the online version a lot, as well as Grammar Girl and some other sources for online help with grammar and punctuation questions. Since things continually change in terms of publishing style guides, it is important to have the latest info. Thanks for the informative post.

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  3. I will take CMS's word on it, but that just looks weird. Thanks for the lesson, Dani!

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  4. I just read a newspaper article that mentioned somebody's "mother in law". ARGGH!

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  5. And I thought golf had a complicated rule book!

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  6. Hyphens make you happy. They make me anxious like commas and parenthesis and italics and I think I am going to have nightmares.

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  7. I love the new CMS. I used it just last week for clarification on an em dash. What a great resource.

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  8. Hi, Dani! I, too, love a good hyphen or two. :-) And I absolutely love my new copy the CMS.

    If the original phrase is "5 to 8 year olds," I believe it should be "5- to 8-year-olds" (although I wouldn't be able to resist spelling out the numbers!). A similar example is given in the hyphenation guide at 7.85 (first category entered, "age terms").

    I'm fairly new around here, and I look forward to reading future entries. Have a great day!

    -Neal

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  9. That sucker would have me in tears in about 30 seconds,"What in the name of the Shire is that suppose to mean?" (Sorry, just reread Lord of the Rings.)Why don't they just say what they mean? There wasn't anything omitted in the second part of that "expression," not to mention it looks really stupid that way. Nope, the proper way to do that, if I remember correctly from my 5th grade English teacher is 5 to 8 year-olds; or at least, let's put it this way, I ain't doin' it your way. Don't care what some fancy shmancy book says. So there.

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  10. Thanks for the info. I'll have to get the new CMS, I'm still with the 14th ed.
    Regarding hyphenations, last year I posted a closely-related article about compound words on my blog.Here's the link.
    Cheers!

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  11. Well, truth is, you CAN do anything you want when you write. Whether you get accepted for publication - that's another issue entirely. We all make our choices, and submitting a manuscript to a publisher that is edited to CMS will likely keep you out of the slush pile, presuming it's also a good story. The house editor might make some edits according to the house style sheet before the book goes to print, but that's nothing the author needs to worry about... or stew over should you disagree with the changes.

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  12. I'm not sure for whom the last comment was meant, but I was stating what the 16th edition of the CMS recommends the correct format should be (per the example given in 7.85). The "to" should be included: "5- to 8-year-olds."

    Have a great evening!

    -Neal

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  13. Yes, I use the Chicago Manual of Style a lot - that and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and Garner's Modern American Usage are definitely my "bibles" of editing and proofreading. In fiction, I'd say "five- to eight-year-olds." (Write out the numbers in words.) Nonfiction often uses the numerals instead.

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  14. I would simply have changed it to read:

    "For ages 5 to 8." or "For ages five to eight."

    Much less messy ;-)

    Elle
    HearWriteNow & Blood-Red Pencil

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  15. Well written, fun and entertaining. Never EVER thought I'd say that about a sentence structure piece. Thanks for the smile.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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