A Surplus of Hyphens

rogersgeorge on April 28th, 2017

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of three-word phrases unnecessarily hyphenated. Here’s an example:

Once it’s all said and done, you’ll have peace-of-mind knowing the contents on your computer are protected.

Sorry, but those hyphens aren’t necessary. Here are a few more: inch-by-inch, time-of-day, up-to-date, over-and-over. These would all make fine compound adjectives, but don’t hyphenate them unless they are adjectives! For those hyphens to be correct, the writer of that sentence would need something like:

Once it’s all said and done, you’ll have a peace-of-mind situation knowing the contents on your computer are protected.

Those other examples might be inch-by-inch examination, time-of-day readout, up-to-date message, over-and-over excuses. An exercise: when you see one of these, supply your own noun the adjective phrase to modify. But when they’re by themselves, don’t hyphenate them.

Subscribe to this blog's RSS feed

Keep your Thoughts Together

rogersgeorge on April 26th, 2017

English is a relatively uninflected language, so word order is important. In declarative sentences, for example, we put the subject first most of the time, and the verb after it. It can get tricky when we insert modifiers. The rule is to put modifiers as close to what they modify as possible. Here’s an example […]

Continue Reading...

Compose and Comprise

rogersgeorge on April 24th, 2017

I’ve been posting things that people get wrong a lot lately, and here’s another one, that someone (the folks at This Day in History) almost got right! They seem to know the way most people get this wrong, and they avoid that: NEVER use “is comprised of”! That’s a pretentiousism. (You may say “is composed of” when […]

Continue Reading...

Eager or Anxious

rogersgeorge on April 22nd, 2017

Here’s a pair of words that a lot of people get wrong. First, the comic (he gets it wrong). Both anxious and eager refer to anticipating something in the future, but they are different in an important way: Eager means looking forward to something with pleasure Anxious means looking forward to something with fear. I’m […]

Continue Reading...

Positive, Comparative, Superlative

rogersgeorge on April 20th, 2017

The rule is that when you compare two things, you use the comparative form (see the Andertoons comic below), and when you select from three or more, it’s called the superlative form. The kid in the comic has a point. When the word you want has three or more syllables, use more and most with […]

Continue Reading...