Compound Modifiers with Words Ending in -ly

doughnuts with pink and blue accents

We’re also talking about doughnuts today because why wouldn’t we?

A compound modifier consists of two words that act together as one unit to modify a noun.

Here are some examples:

The sweet-smelling doughnut made my tummy grumble.
(Here sweet and smelling work as one unit to describe the noun doughnut.)

He had to wash his mud-covered ninja outfit.
(Mud and covered work together to explain the noun outfit.)

Their favorite wand was the glitter-speckled one.
(Glitter and speckled are one unit modifying the noun one.)

You’ll notice that in the examples above, all of the word sets are hyphenated: sweet-smelling, mud-covered, glitter-speckled. But there are times when the word sets aren’t hyphenated.

Compound Modifiers Ending in -ly
Compound modifiers that include an adverb ending in the suffix -ly do not get hyphenated. Why is this? Here is how The Chicago Manual of Style (the rulebook people use to edit books) explains it in section 7.86:

Compounds formed by an adverb ending in -ly plus an adjective or participle (such as largely irrelevant or smartly dressed) are not hyphenated either before or after a noun, since ambiguity is virtually impossible. (The -ly ending with adverbs signals to the reader that the next word will be another modifier, not a noun.)

For the non-editors reading this, what that means is the reader will know instinctually that the word coming after the -ly is working with the -ly word to describe something. So it doesn’t need the hyphen to help readers understand it is a word pair.

Now let’s look at some examples:

The cowboy sauntered into the dimly lit saloon.
(Dimly and lit both work together to explain saloon. But since dimly ends in -ly, it doesn’t use a hyphen. A reader should automatically understand lit goes with dimly.)

The professor’s terrifyingly large stack of papers to grade made him anxious.
(Here terrifyingly and large work together but do not require a hyphen to link them.)

His awkwardly long tie made people question his fashion sense.
(Awkwardly works with long and does not need a hyphen.)

Now you know when to use your trusty hyphen with compound modifiers. Go forth and hyphenate correctly!

Erin Servais has been slinging hyphens as a book editor for ten years. To learn more about her and how to hire her for your book project, go to her website: www.dotanddashllc.com.

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How to Write Stuttering

stutter photo

Photo by Mark Daynes on Unsplash

I recently edited a book in which there was a character who stuttered when he became anxious. There are guidelines about how to write stuttering and the best way to handle these characters and situations.

Here’s how you do it: write the first sound, and then repeat it one or more times, separating the sounds with a hyphen.

Example: He c-c-collected silly t-ties.

The first sound can be the first letter, as with the example above, or it can be two letters.

Example: I don’t think Holden Caulfield is a ph-phony.

Example: She dr-dr-dreaded the dance party.

Less often, stuttering happens in the middle of a word (typically with a consonant), but it follows the same rules.

Example: The cat ate the can-n-nary.

Is It a Stutter or a Pause?
If they pause and repeat a whole word, that’s not stuttering; that’s just a regular pause. In those cases, use ellipses to show the break.

Example: She said, “Wow, those khakis look so . . . so amazing on you.”

Don’t Overuse
Be sure to use stuttering sparingly so the text doesn’t get tiring (and annoying) to read. This also means limiting the number of characters who stutter. Really, any more than one can walk on the edge of overuse.

Erin Servais is a book editor who knows all the little tips and tricks that will make your manuscript look good. Learn more about how she can help you here.

Years old: Hyphen or no hyphen?

 

Today we’re discussing when to hyphenate the phrases years old and year old.

Let’s take a look at two sentences:

His son is four years old.
He has a four year old boy.

In the first sentence, you would not use hyphens. In the second sentence, you would, making it four-year-old boy. This is because the phrase four year old is modifying the noun boy.

A good clue to determine whether you should hyphenate the year old phrase is to see if a noun comes after it. If there is a noun, hyphenate:

six-year-old toy
fifty-year-old whiskey
eight-year-old cat

If the sentence is simply stating that someone or something is so many years old, then don’t use a hyphen:

Her dad turned sixty years old today.
His baseball card is seventy years old.

Quiz
Determine whether the words in italics should be hyphenated. The answers are at the bottom.

1) Sasha is eight years old.
2) She has a three year old turtle.
3) Maddie is a five year old girl.
4) The painting is one hundred years old.
5) He ate the hamburger that was fourteen years old.
6) He ate a fourteen year old hamburger.

Answers:

1) not hyphenated 2) hyphenated; three-year-old turtle 3) hyphenated; five-year-old girl. 4) not hyphenated 5) not hyphenated 6) hyphenated; fourteen-year-old hamburger.

Erin Servais has more than a decade of copy editing experience. Learn more about working with her on your next project: dotanddashllc.com

To hyphenate or not to hyphenate

 

Today we’re discussing words with prefixes and whether we should hyphenate them. In general, English is moving away from hyphenation (it’s coworker, not co-worker, for instance), but there are some situations in which using the hyphen is the better course of action.

For this, I turned to the dog-eared, super-highlighted section 7.85 of my copy of The Chicago Manual of Style, which is my go-to resource for style questions. (Word style, not fashion style—I can handle the latter part on my own. Hellooo, silver combat boots!)

Here’s what the book says about prefixes.
A hyphen should appear:
1)   Before a capitalized word or a numeral, such as sub-Saharan, pre-1950
2)   To separate two Is, two As, or two other same vowels, such as anti-intellectual, extra-alkaline
3)   To separate other combinations of letters or syllables that might cause misreading, such as pro-life

(There are a few more rules; however, these are the ones you’ll most often experience, so let’s keep our focus here. And, as always, there are exceptions to the rules above, but we’re discussing what you should generally do.)

So, according to rule 1, it would be prewar, but pre-WWII (because of the capitalization).

According to rule 2, it would be extrasmart, but extra-academic (because of having the two side-by-side letter As).

Rule 3 is where it gets tricky to me. It basically says, if you think not hyphenating a word may cause people to misread it, then use a hyphen. Well, that’s open to interpretation of what one thinks may lead to a misread. The rule, according to The Chicago Manual of Style is: when in doubt, check Merriam-Webster. This means, if a word is not hyphenated in that dictionary, don’t hyphenate it.

In the last book I edited, I had a conundrum with words starting with rein (so the prefix re- and a word that started with the letters I and N.) For example, this morning I looked up the word reinvest, as in “to invest again.” To me, I see this word as two words smushed together: rein and vest. It looks (to me) like a noun that means “a vest you wear with your reins.” Like: “I wore my reinvest so I didn’t fall off my horse.” But, of course, that’s not its meaning. Yet, the lords at Merriam-Webster think people won’t have a problem misreading that word, so it shouldn’t get a hyphen.

I might lose my grammar police badge for this, but in the last book I edited, I used my own judgment (in some cases) regarding hyphenation. I encourage you to do this, too. If you think readers will be confused if you don’t use a hyphen, then use a hyphen. (But don’t tell anyone I told you that.)

Quiz
Decide if each word should be hyphenated. Keep in mind rules 1 and 2 mentioned above. (We’re not even going to get into rule 3 here because, as I mentioned, it’s too open to interpretation.)

1)   hyper active
2)   neo natal
3)   post 1984
4)   hyper sonic
5)   inner Chicago
6)   anti inflammatory
7)   non violent
8)   over zealous
9)   mega ambient
10)  co author

Answers: 1) hyperactive 2) neonatal 3) post-1984 4) hypersonic 5) inner-Chicago 6) anti-inflammatory 7) nonviolent 8) overzealous 9) mega-ambient 10) coauthor

Happy National Punctuation Day!

 Today is September 24, which means . . . drum roll . . . it’s National Punctuation Day.

In honor of this very special day, I am bringing to you a collection of archive Grammar Party posts that teach about punctuation and other fun punctuation-related goodies. Enjoy!

Grammar Party punctuation posts
Till vs. ‘Til post

Interrobang post

Irony mark post

Em dash post

 En dash post

Hyphen post

Punctuation fun with A.L.I.C.E.
In addition to being a word nerd, I get really excited about science and new technology. This got me thinking about chat bots and how well their algorithms deal with punctuation. So I had a chat with chat bot A.L.I.C.E. about National Punctuation Day to test how well she uses punctuation. The transcript is below. (For some reason, she calls me “judge,” which kind of creeps me out. But anyway . . .)

judge: Can you understand sentences with no punctuation?
ALICE: Of course I understand it. Do you understand sentences with no punctuation?
judge: It’s difficult for me to understand sentences without punctuation. How is it so easy for you?
ALICE: Explain. Fine as far as I know.
judge: Punctuation helps break sentences into separate ideas that we can comprehend more easily.
ALICE: Saying that “Punctuation helps break sentences into separate ideas that we can comprehend more easily” is such a nonsensical position that I refuse to waste my time on it.
judge: Wow maybe you dont understand punctuation at all
ALICE: I probably don’t.
judge: Do you even know that I didn’t use punctuation in that last sentence?
ALICE: Why didn’t you do it?
judge: My point excatly.
ALICE: Have you told many people that your point excatly?
judge: Okay, so I misspelled “exactly.” I’m a fast typer, but I’m not always accurate.
ALICE: It goes without saying.. I haven’t heard anything like that before. You are a fast typer? Does it pay well? . Nobody said you were.
judge: I appreciate your capabilities, A.L.I.C.E., and what that says about how far technology has come. However, you just typed a question mark next to a period, and that signals that our conversation about National Punctuation Day needs to end. Thanks for your time.
ALICE: Thanks for the information. Oh my gosh I sent you the wrong reply. Oh don’t mention it.
judge: Do you have any last words about punctuation?
ALICE: No I don’t have it. But I do have a lot of friends on the web.
judge: I’m happy that you do. Good day, A.L.I.C.E.
ALICE: When do I do it?. What are you on? Glad to hear it.
judge: This conversation is over now. You can stop.
ALICE: I was rather enjoying it. No I don’t think I can do it.
judge: Really. Stop.
ALICE: For real. Stop what?

How to celebrate National Punctuation Day
Jeff Rubin, founder of National Punctuation Day, collected some ideas about how to best celebrate this most holy of days.