In which I rant on about hyphens

rogersgeorge on November 10th, 2009

Harrumpf! I’d expect a notable scientific  journal like the Daily Galaxy to get these things right. Especially after I so recently described how to do it. (I’m sure they read my missives regularly…)

When you have a phrase that’s used as an adjective, you hyphenate it. That way you know the first word in the phrase isn’t modifying the second word, but the words together are modifying the noun.

Here’s the example. They get it right the second time, one paragraph later, so I suspect careless proofreading.

“…we have a much better idea of how to find and recognize Earth like planets (Emphasis mine. This should be hyphenated.) outside our solar system…” said Enric Palle, of the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias.

“Many discoveries of Earth-size planets (correct!) are expected in the next decades and some will orbit in the habitable zone of their parent stars.”

Side note: I see they capitalize “Earth.” A century back, when I was in sixth grade, Mrs. Clemens taught us to capitalize all the planet names except earth.

Don’t get me wrong—I read their articles regularly and find them interesting and informative. But carelessness like this frosts me. If they had read and followed the little freebie I offer (see the form on the right) perhaps they would have been more careful. I recommend you take a look at it.

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3 Responses to “In which I rant on about hyphens”

  1. On your side note—I always thought Earth should be capitalized when referring to the planet, and not when referring to the material. It’s a proper name, after all.

    On your main message – I’ve always used the space-separated-hyphen for the m-dash, especially online. Right or wrong, I find it way more readable than the m-dash as in my first paragraph. It’s interesting to me how differently legible hardcopy print is, versus pixel-based displays.

    And referring forward to the -, –, — article… thanks for that, I had no idea there was an n-dash!

  2. I agree with you—Let’s start a movement: capitalize the planet, everybody!

    The space-separated hyphen is indeed considered an acceptable option, so you certainly have my permission to use it. Purist (or curmudgeon) that I am, I like the other way. Maybe I look only at hi-res screens…

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