Saturday, November 3, 2007

Is the hyphen dying?

I am a little behind on the news, so you too may not have heard: The end of the hyphen is at hand. What's next? No more semi-colons? Of course, the colon is safe because academics and pundits need them for the titles of their books.

The decline of the hyphen was reported in September, when the new Shorter Oxford English Dictionary was published with approximately 16,000 compound nouns either concatenated or separated.

Angus Stevenson, editor of the Shorter OED, said "People are not confident about using hyphens anymore, they're not really sure what they are for."

Ok, what are they for? Emphasis, for one, because if you put a hyphen in a word, it looks more important, right? And it's sort of like a word perineum, a nice place to rest your chin. I think they should be required for oxymorons, sort of like a double-headed arrow with the barbs removed, so that the brain-thickened, hyphen-challenged bloggers get the point.

Stevenson also said "Printed writing is very much design-led these days in adverts and Web sites, and people feel that hyphens mess up the look of a nice bit of typography. The hyphen is seen as messy looking and old-fashioned."

In this day-and-age of spell- and grammar-checkers, all it takes is a few lines of code to create an automatic de-hyphenator. Write your blog entry, have it spell-check your work, and voilá, no more messy, old-fashioned looking hyphens.

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