30 September 2009


An interesting feature appeared today on Reuters about the disappearing hyphen.

I'd definitely agree that hyphens are going out of use thanks to the internet. I've dropped many over the years - some because of the influence of the web, but others have gone for other reasons. Language shifts style for many reasons and the growth of the internet is not the only one. For example, the scientific community was merging medical, technical and scientific terms that previously had hyphens long before texting and email started affecting language use. Nor is Oxford University Press the sole guardian of our language. I do check spellings, including hyphenation, in Oxford's spelling dictionary or its other specialist style guides for editors, but I also have half a dozen other style guides on my shelves.

The Guardian style guide (which uses Collins for its house dictionary) is one I use frequently, not just because I sometimes write for it but some of my editing clients use it as a style guide too. And the Guardian was dispensing with hyphens ahead of the great post-2000 growth of the web. I'm very much in favour of dispensing with overfussy use of hyphens and merging words where they look cleaner, or even splitting them in two if they look better that way.

Style is often a matter of choice rather than a hard and fast rule. There are several major publishers in the UK who produce dictionaries of English - none is identical to any other, including in some choices for spelling or hyphenation. And until we have a French-style English Academy set up here dictating unbreakable rules, we will continue to see our language evolve and adapt.

And rightly so.
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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Congratulations! Although I can't help thinking the real winner in this is whichever newsroom gets the benefit of your experience and knowledge while you 'upskill' (I do hate that word).
Anyway, don't let Dignity in the Workplace get in the way of you teaching all those young journos the correct use of colourful language. Look froward to reading all about your exploits here.