Hyphenate Here, Hyphenate There, Everywhere We Hyphenate!

I see a lot of confusion over hypenated words like “follow-up,” “up-to-date,” “$40,000-a-year salary,” etc.

Before we dive into that, we will have a very basic grammar lesson. I’ve admitted before that I am NOT a grammar guru and these parts of speech sometimes confuse me, so we will get basic here (for my sake if nothing else!). An adjective answers the questions what kindhow many, or which one. An adjective modifies the meaning of a noun or a pronoun. A noun is a person, place, object, idea, quality, or activity. A verb is a word that expresses an activity or a state of being. An adverb answers the question whenwherewhyin what manner, or to what extent. Now that that’s out of the way, on to our discussion.

The basic rule is that where the word that may need hyphenation serves as an adjective phrase describing a noun, it is hypenated. Where it serves as a verb and adverb, it does not get hypenated.

  • The follow-up report will be on your desk in the morning. (Here, follow-up [adjective phrase] describes the kind of report [noun] so is hypenated.)
  • I will follow up [verb/adverb] with a report [noun] on business done so far this month. (In this sentence, follow up is a verb phrase–it is the action I will take on the report.)
  • The up-to-date computer program was able to do a lot more and more quickly.
  • The information is as up to date as possible with the information I have.
  • The new job afforded him a $40,000-a-year salary.
  • The salary at his new job was $40,000 a year.

You would also hyphenate a compound adjective when it occurs before a noun where those words are not in their “normal” order or “normal” form and need the hyphen to hold the words together. For instance:

  • The high-tech equipment makes my job easier. (It is equipment that reflects a high level of technology.)
  • I don’t envy speakers on the rubber-chicken circuit. (A speaking circuit where banquet food [usually “rubber chicken”] is served to participants.)

Where these phrases appear other than before the noun but are in an inverted order and not in a “normal” order, retain the hyphen.

  • The new equipment was very high-tech. (The equipment reflected a high level of technology.)
  • My purchase was tax-exempt. (The purchase was exempt from taxes.)

The same basic rule applies to compounds with numbers:

  • A 12-story building. (A building of 12 stories.)
  • sixth-grade student. (A student in the sixth grade.)

If you can’t figure it out, find the noun and if the words potentially in need of a hyphen are describing that noun, it should be hyphenated. If they are acting as the sentence’s verb and adverb, do not hyphenate.

Hopefully that helps you decide when to hyphenate (and when NOT to!).

Grammar Giggle – Febuary

It’s a fact that February is the hardest month of the year to spell. My 13-year-old granddaughter sent me this one that looks like it was at one of her brother’s wrestling tournaments. I’m so proud of her for catching the mistake and I can feel her mother rolling her eyes from here! 🙂 To make matters worse, not only is February misspelled, but when you use a complete month, day, and year format for the date, you only use the number for the day without using the ordinal figure number (8th). If this sign were correct, it would say “February 8, 2014.”

Febuary

Grammar Giggles – Justin . . . and Double Negatives

I found this one on Twitter and since it is so timely, I’m sharing it with you. Double negatives are where you use two negative words which generally cancel each other out. Here is a perfect example of that:

Image

Saying “We never won’t” means we will because “we won’t” means we will not do something, but adding “never” means we will never not do something or, less confusingly, we will do it. Granted, this was probably posted by a tween (although they still should know better), but this error totally defeats the purpose of the message.

Because Awesome!

 

I’ve seen a couple of places a new “Word of the Year” as voted on by the American Dialect Society (“ADS”) for 2013. The ADS fancies itself “the best” because, like the Oscars, it is the last group to choose the “Word of the Year” at its January conference. ADS’s word for 2013 is because–both as its Word of the Year and as the most useful word of 2013. Why did they choose because? First some background on the ADS. It is a group of linguists, lexicographers, and other language scholars. This group holds an annual three-day conference full of academic sessions and paper presentations and holds it in conjunction with the Linguistic Society of America so they have nearly 200 people voting on their Word of the Year and other awards. The ADS even has a New Words Committee. A whole committee dedicated to seeking out new words. But on to why because is the ADS Word of the Year.

According to Ben Zimmer, chair of ADS’s New Words Committee, because is “. . . a very old word that’s deeply embedded in the language, which people are finding new ways to use, and very often it’s intentionally laying with established rules of grammar. I think the fact that this is such a linguistic innovation really appealed to a room full of linguists.”

So in addition to using because before a full clause or with the word of, it is apparently now appropriate to use it to precede a noun, like because job, or before an adjective, like because awesome

Other ADS winners were most creative (catfish, which is to misrepresent oneself online–usually on a social website), most unnecessary (sharknado, made famous by a made-for-TV movie), and most likely to succeed (binge-watch, which is watching several episodes of a show in one sitting).

It will definitely take me a while to get used to this one, but hopefully I can get used to it because awesome! (It will take a LOT of getting used to!)

 

Grammar Giggle – What Kind of Shot?

A friend sent this one to me. Not only do you need to be aware of leaving letters out, but you also need to be aware of slang or local language. I’m just not sure I’m brave enough to even test these shots.

Flu shots

Not Only More Subject/Verb Agreement But Also Intervening Clauses

questionWe’ll look at more subject/verb agreement today. If you missed last week’s topic, please see “Singular Verb, Plural Subject, Both . . . and, It’s All About the Agreement.”

When you have two subjects connected by and and preceded by eacheverymany a, or many an, use a singular verb.

  • Every car, truck, and van on the street is going 15 miles over the speed limit.

The same sentence without every would use a plural verb.

  • All cars, trucks, and vans on the street are going 15 miles over the speed limit.

When you have two singular words joined by oreither . . . orneither . . . nornot only . . . but also, the subject is singular and so you use a singular verb.

  • Neither the bride nor the groom was ready to walk down the aisle.
  • Either basil or mint is called for in the recipe.
  • Not only billing but also his expense reimbursement needs to get done on the first day of the month.

If, however, the subject is two or more plural words joined by oreither . . . orneither . . . nornot only . . . but also, then the subject is plural and you must use a plural verb.

  • Neither the paralegals nor the attorneys have any time for that project.
  • Either red roses or white daisies make her happy.

Just to keep it confusing, if you have a singular and a plural subject joined by oreither . . . orneither . . . nornot only . . . but also, your verb should agree with the nearest part of the subject. It usually sounds better to have plural verbs, so where possible, you should try to move the plural subject closest to the verb whenever you can.

  • Neither Joe nor his brothers are going to the beach.
  • Neither Joe’s brothers nor Joe is going to the beach.
  • Not only research knowledge but also grammar skills are important in a job search.

When you have an intervening clause between subject and verb (or multiple subjects and a verb), ignore the intervening clause to determine if you need a singular or plural verb.

  • The point of the exercises was to teach correct use of apostophes.
  • Only one of the examinees was prepared with supplies.

I hope that helps with subject/verb agreement. If you have any questions about this or have another topic you would like to see covered, please let me know at proofthatblog@gmail.com. Also remember that you can add your email address to the “Subscribe to Blog via Email” area on the top right hand side of the page and the posts will be emailed to you! Lastly, if you are learning something, please share with others who might be interested. Thanks!

Grammar Giggle – Suga, ah Honey Honey

A friend sent this to me and I immediately thought of the Archie’s song “Sugar, Sugar.” It doesn’t appear to be a space or margin issue, just an issue of not including all the letters and not checking to make sure it was right.

Suga

Grammar Giggle – Is THERE Too Much Focus On Wrong Words, ESPN?

It is so disheartening that ESPN could make this error. This is the kind of error I see on Facebook a lot, but ESPN’s business is words and they should get it right. Their, there, they’re–they may all sound alike, but they are very different!

ESPN