AP's how-to-use-hyphens-wisely guide causes consternation among pedants


This is some top notch writing about how people get mad about hyphen usage right here. “Decision-making abilities” is genius.


This means that I’ve been using this latest hyphenation guideline in my recent writings, without even being aware of it!


The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.

–James D. Nicoll


I was a high school student.


It means you have to believe in your own decision-making abilities.

I believe in my own, sure. But other people’s…

the no-hyphen first grade student,

What was the first grade given by the first first grade grade school teacher to the first first grade grade grubber?


I’m not sure if this when-to-use-hyphen-discussion-by-those-that-study-the-English-language-that-concludes-with-the-non-guideline-to-use-them-when-the-writer-deems-it-neccessary blog post really helped writers.


I’m rather apathetic about hyphens, but I will instantly mount a ground war against anyone who dares suggest that the oxford comma is unnecessary.

Everyone has their line.


If a hyphen makes the meaning clearer, use it. If it just adds clutter and distraction to the sentence, don’t use it. If the sheer number of hyphens in a phrase, or confusion about how to use them, can daunt either the writer or the reader, try rephrasing.

Great writing advice in general.



What does the Chicago style have to say about the use of a split infinitive in Chicago’s rail system I wonder?


The thirteenth edition of this manual included split infinitives among the examples of “errors and infelicities” but tempered the inclusion . . . . The item has been dropped from the fourteenth edition because the Press now regards the intelligent and discriminating use of the construction as a legitimate form of expression and nothing writers or editors need to feel uneasy about.

14th print edition, 2.98 n. 9.


Perfect. Thank you. :slightly_smiling_face:

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I’ve got your back.


No matter what CMS may say, there’s nothing at all wrong with splitting an infinitive - that’s a faux-grammatical shibboleth invented by 18th-C. grammarians, back when classical Latin was the only language with a scholarly formal grammar.

Latin infinitives are all one word, so they can’t be split. But splitting the (generally) two-word infinitives of English (“to go…”) by putting an adverb or so in the middle (“to boldly go…”) is a time-honored standard practice in English, and often results in a more euphonious, naturally flowing phrase than any tortured attempt at re-casting it.

But it’s one of the evergreens among Grammar Peevers, who mostly peeve about constructions that everyone uses naturally but have been ‘forbidden,’ usually based on next to nothing by sometimes-undereducated 18th-C. usage writers (or worse, the tendentious nonsense that E.B. White inflicted on Professor Strunk’s succinct little writers’ guide).

If they confined themselves to actual grammar and usage they’d likely have little to say, since most people follow the real, organic grammar and usage rules that they’ve picked up from context.

The invented shibboleths and proscriptions are usually ignored by good writers and hoi polloi alike, so the Peevers always have something peeve about.


If I may defend E.B., my little fourth edition states:

There is precedent from the fourteenth century down for interposing an adverb between to and the infinitive it governs, but the construction should be avoided unless the writer wishes to place unusual stress on the adverb.

p. 58. And then, on p. 78:

The split infinitive is another trick of rhetoric in which the ear must be quicker than the handbook. Some infinitives seem to improve on being split . . . . A matter of ear.


Well, E.B. White’s advice wasn’t all nonsense - just mostly. :wink:


Mmm . . flame me if you will but I believe that the article uses the word proscriptve when the correct word would be prescriptive…


Aw, don’t even get me started on em and en dashes!

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And my axe!

Yep. :slightly_smiling_face:

“Proscriptive” would be “what you shouldn’t say.”

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