Cheerio, duckies! Orange is everywhere, and pumpkin spice has our flavor options in a death grip. It is decidedly fall.
It is also decidedly easy to fall prey to sneaky little style slipups. Luckily, we have our faithful CMOS to finesse any faltering. Today’s case in point: the hyphen. That teeny little line can bewilder the best of writers, but the Manual is quite forgiving with regards to hyphen usage.
In section 7.77 of the Sixteenth Edition, the CMOS acknowledges the mental gymnastics required to decipher compound mechanics. It also offers an easy out: by consulting the dictionary. Webster’s provides a substantial, though not exhaustive, list of hyphenated compounds. Section 5.91 of the CMOS goes further, providing an especially helpful rule of thumb. Look for substantial alterations in meaning when deciding to apply hyphens. Is it a small shoe shop, or a small-shoe shop? Hopefully, the size of your feet does not range into square footage, and you’ll easily see the difference.
With common usage, many open or hyphenated compounds close over time. While both the CMOS and Webster’s dictionary may encourage hyphenated spellings, it is becoming more and more acceptable to use closed compounds where “pronunciation and readability are not at stake.”
Essentially, it all boils down to clarity. If your well-dressed businessman character requires a tie and a hyphen to be obvious to your readers, by all means, include both. If your description makes it all clear without the clutter, you may skip the hyphen if you are so inclined.
Just be prepared for Spellcheck and Webster’s to argue the point.
There are naturally many more considerations and rules to take into account, but it's time for all of us to be about our day. Have a lovely week, and remember: a well-turned phrase is always in style!
Photo courtesy of Darrick BartholomewTired of fishing walnuts out of the ornamental pond, the Style Maven has threatened the local squirrels with a steady diet of boring bread crusts instead of their usual cake tops. Whether this tactic works remains to be seen; if it does, you can read about it at KOFO's Procraftinator page.