What a soul-crushing way to kick-off the week-end
August 31, 2019 7:50 AM   Subscribe

To the horror of decent writers everywhere, The Associated Press has issued new guidance on the use of hyphens, upending the normal order of things, and precipitating the decline of Western Civilisation.
posted by Cobalt (82 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Cats-and-dogs living together. Mass-hysteria.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:52 AM on August 31, 2019 [18 favorites]


Next week they'll work on the Oxford comma...
posted by DreamerFi at 7:57 AM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


This news leaves me feeling down-trodden and hope-less.
posted by mittens at 8:01 AM on August 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


what-ever
posted by philip-random at 8:01 AM on August 31, 2019 [11 favorites]


Can they please also tell my boss that no hyphen is needed for an adverb phrase? tx!
posted by schwinggg! at 8:01 AM on August 31, 2019 [8 favorites]


In my world, we're all excited or angry about the new APA Publication Manual coming out soon that will mandate only one space between sentences instead of two.
posted by ElKevbo at 8:03 AM on August 31, 2019 [16 favorites]


On a more serious note ... I think the number of compound modifiers/adjective phrases that are unclear without a hyphen is likely very, very small. So I believe this is the end of the hyphen for compound modifiers.
posted by schwinggg! at 8:04 AM on August 31, 2019


They do know that they didn't have to do this, right? Nobody was forcing them to do this.
posted by dis_integration at 8:05 AM on August 31, 2019 [13 favorites]


I have strong feelings. I got edit shamed by one of the copy writers in my company’s marketing department and read the riot act regarding the use of hyphens for adjectives. This is a high-risk endeavor!
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 8:13 AM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


flailing_screaming_crying.gif
posted by heurtebise at 8:14 AM on August 31, 2019 [7 favorites]


This will lead to one huge ass problem after another.
posted by RobotHero at 8:15 AM on August 31, 2019 [83 favorites]


True. And I hate ass problems.
posted by kyrademon at 8:18 AM on August 31, 2019 [15 favorites]


.... -.-- .--. . -. / - .... .. ... / -- --- - .... . .-. ..-. ..- -.-. -.- . .-.
posted by lalochezia at 8:19 AM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


Side point, but I got hung up on their example of "first half run." I mean, it's good for showing off the possibility of the wrong reading, but -- that's not something people actually say, is it? Like, a "first quarter goal" makes sense at least as a phrase people say. But we don't talk about half innings that way, I don't think? Or is this about runs in a non-baseball sport?
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:19 AM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


The Lowly Hyphen: Reports of Its Death are Greatly Exaggerated - Ben Zimmer, Oxford University Press Blog, September 27, 2007.
So what’s behind the vanishing hyphens? As Shorter editor Angus Stevenson explained to Reuters, “People are not confident about using hyphens anymore, they’re not really sure what they are for.” Geoffrey Leech of Lancaster University told the BBC that electronic communication is partially to blame. “When you are sending e-mails [emails?], and you have to type pretty fast, on the whole it’s easier to type without hyphens,” Leech said. “Ordinary people are not very conscious of the fact of whether they are putting hyphens or not.” So it seems that hyphens often get lost in the shuffle as we quickly tap away on our keyboards and keypads. But if you’re worried about the electronic age inducing the extinction of the hyphen, keep in mind that some hyphenation patterns have been changing for centuries.
posted by cenoxo at 8:32 AM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


A “first half run” might occur in football to describe a running play in the first half of the game. In basketball, you often hear a scoring spurt described as a run, e.g. “The Trailblazers lead 75-62, thanks to a 25-2 first half run”.
posted by chrchr at 8:40 AM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


What the actual-fuck
posted by potrzebie at 8:41 AM on August 31, 2019 [7 favorites]


Ah chrchr, those are better, yeah.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:42 AM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


i plan on writing a strongly worded e-mail
posted by entropicamericana at 8:43 AM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


"... on the whole it’s easier to type without hyphens,” Leech said.

Well, it's also easier to type without vowels.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:48 AM on August 31, 2019 [19 favorites]


IMO hyphens in stock phrases used as modifiers just makes it a little easier to read, because you don't have to even consider the other ways of grouping things to decide whether it's ambiguous. So neither "first half-marathon" vs "first-half touchdown" is really ambiguous if you know the subject, but if there's hyphens you can parse it correctly without having to know or access that information.

It means someone who doesn't know anything about football at all can ask "first half of what?" not "what's a half touchdown?"
posted by aubilenon at 8:48 AM on August 31, 2019 [23 favorites]


Why? What is the reason they decided this was a thing to do? Were there legions of copyeditors sick of popping in the dropped hyphens of lazy writers? Did the price of ink go up?

Personally I find that an hyphen in an adjectival phrase helps my brain keep order when reading the sentence. It is genuinely more effort to read and make sense of “first half run” than it is to make sense of “first-half run”.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:51 AM on August 31, 2019 [17 favorites]


Now can they get the NYT to stop using apostrophes to mark plurals for acronyms? C.E.O.'s. UGH! The dots are bad enough, but the apostrophe is just wrong wrong wrong. Apostrophes never ever ever mark a plural. Unless you're a grocer.
posted by Nelson at 8:54 AM on August 31, 2019 [28 favorites]


Jinx, aubilenon.

Also, is it possible that so many writers are filing stories from their phones? Because it is a mild annoyance to switch to the punctuation menu for an adjectival phrase, but fuck, presumably these people are being paid.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:55 AM on August 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


Well, off to watch some base-ball.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:09 AM on August 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


I love using apostrophes for plural acronyms! It's what I was taught in school by the most pedantic grammarian possible, and only later learned it was an archaic rule even then (in the 1980's that is, and yes, the apostrophe on the year is another rule I learned.)

Annoying grammar nazis by being an even worse one is my jam.
posted by traveler_ at 9:16 AM on August 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


Now that I think about it, XKCD #37 is an oblique warning against ushering in the hyphenless armageddon.
posted by MiraK at 9:22 AM on August 31, 2019 [8 favorites]


Next week they'll work on the Oxford comma...

The AP better stay in their lane if they know what's good for them.
posted by fuse theorem at 9:31 AM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


The AP better stay in their lane if they know what's good for them

Isn’t the point of this kind of threat to specifically tell them what’s good for them? So how could they not know!
posted by aubilenon at 9:36 AM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


Well, it's also easier to type without vowels.

or meaning ...

asdrt qerahnd dsal
posted by philip-random at 10:05 AM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


I must share my story. There are two things I despise:

One: "email". It's "e-mail," you illiterate morons! "Electronic-fucking-mail!"

Two: "Spiderman." It's not "Spiderman," you idiots! It's "Spider-Man!" Have you ever held a comic book in your hands?!
posted by SPrintF at 10:06 AM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


If they meddle with the comma rules, Bill Walsh’ll rise from his grave in protest. This hyphen change is unnecessary enough, let’s not pile on.
posted by rewil at 10:08 AM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


It seems to me that the big problem for writers and copy editors here is that before the rule was clear and unambiguous: all compound modifiers get hyphens. Now you have to make a judgment call on each one as to whether a) it's a commonly recognized phrase and b) whether the meaning is clear and unambiguous.
posted by Jahaza at 10:14 AM on August 31, 2019 [10 favorites]


people who type with their thumbs don't need no stinking hyphens or commas or semicolons none a that shit like spellen or grmmer
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:39 AM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


I'm not abiding by any style guide that doesn't consider "clear and unambiguous" redundant.

Plus, it's a stupid-fucking-change (not to be confused with the stupid fucking-change once proposed by an ex).
posted by she's not there at 11:02 AM on August 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


If it were up to me, I'd never use any punctuation - period.

Cormac would like to have a word.
posted by Token Meme at 11:47 AM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


AP style has been going downhill for some years.
posted by NotLost at 12:01 PM on August 31, 2019


Now can they get the NYT to stop using apostrophes to mark plurals for acronyms? C.E.O.'s. UGH! The dots are bad enough, but the apostrophe is just wrong wrong wrong. Apostrophes never ever ever mark a plural. Unless you're a grocer.

C.E.O.'s should be CEOs, sure, but would you remove the apostrophe in "Her report card was straight B's"?

Two: "Spiderman."

I forget where I read this, but Spider-Man is the comic book hero, Spiderman is just a dentist from the Bronx (pronounced SPY-der-muhn).
posted by aws17576 at 12:03 PM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


Truly, the comments on posts like this are why I love Meta-Filter.
posted by Pryde at 12:19 PM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


Oh no what will do without rigid adherence to trivial rules, what will be our shibboleth now
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:31 PM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


Two: "Spiderman."

Oh no what will do without rigid adherence to trivial rules, what will be our shibboleth now


Spiders-man or Spiders-men?
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 12:36 PM on August 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


AP style has been going downhill for some years.

I don't know my AP style from a hole in the ground, what's been happening to it?
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:52 PM on August 31, 2019


C.E.O.'s should be CEOs, sure, but would you remove the apostrophe in "Her report card was straight B's"?

Yes.
posted by Lexica at 12:52 PM on August 31, 2019 [7 favorites]


Her report card was straight bs?
posted by drfu at 12:56 PM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


But what about the em-dash?
posted by nat at 12:56 PM on August 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


The apostrophe for plurals is useful for single letters when leaving them out would cause confusion or ambiguity -- i's and a's and s's vs. is (a word!) and as (also a word!) and ss (???) -- so it's better to just have a blanket rule to use them than to say "oh, in THOSE cases it's fine but otherwise avoid it."

...much like this stupid new AP hyphen rule. Ugh. Luckily for me it's been many years since I've had to use AP at work, so it's been easy to ignore their weird decisions.
posted by phatkitten at 1:07 PM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


Is commonly recognized phrase a commonly understood phrase? I think I will stick to using myself invented erm-dash since we can all now do whatever the hell we want.
posted by srboisvert at 2:12 PM on August 31, 2019


Her report-card was straight bees.
posted by Bee'sWing at 2:20 PM on August 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


Her report card was straight bs?

It’s the capital B doing the heavy lifting in “straight Bs.” All caps or all lower-case would definitely make it as in your example.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:24 PM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


Conjunctions are cool. You can guess when an idea was popularized based on if it has a hyphen, a space, is conjoined, or portmantaued
posted by rebent at 2:37 PM on August 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


> If it were up to me, I'd never use any punctuation - period.Cormac would like to have a word.Cormac McCarthy’s Three Punctuation Rules and How They All Go Back to James Joyce Open Culture Josh Jones August 13 2013 1. Quotation Marks McCarthy doesn't use 'em. 2. Colons and semicolons No semicolons. 3. All other punctuation McCarthy declares his stylistic convictions with simplicity I believe in periods in capitals in the occasional comma, and that’s it.
posted by cenoxo at 2:46 PM on August 31, 2019


AP always has been the kinda-sucky standard that made compromises to cater to the needs of the print newspaper industry. It’s fine for its purpose, but books and periodicals are better served by the Chicago Manual.
posted by D.C. at 2:55 PM on August 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


Huh, I always thought the punctuation on CD's and MP3's was due to the unwritten folk grammar rule that vowel sound plural endings are separated with apostrophe's.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 3:40 PM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


It’s the capital B doing the heavy lifting in “straight Bs.”

True enough! I still think it's incorrect to say "apostrophes never ever ever mark a plural"; surely one needs the apostrophes in dotting your i's and crossing your t's.
posted by aws17576 at 3:49 PM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


The point of the hyphen in "first-quarter goal" is to create a distinct adjective out of "first" (and adjective) and "quarter" (a noun). The hyphenated form helps dispel confusion and emphasizes that "first-quarter" is an adjective that describes "goal."

In short, this is a dumb change and AP ought to be ashamed of themselves.
posted by zardoz at 4:09 PM on August 31, 2019 [6 favorites]


Okay, so my wife sent me this text this very morning: "I got my self store bought cold brew and it is so good". I could not parse that AT ALL. Practically a crash blossom. But you add the hyphen and it's okay, i.e. "I got my self store-bought cold brew and it is so good". Also what about really long adjective compounds like state-of-the-art? I think that's a good example to bring up in light of this change, because the hyphen-less compound is "clear" and "unambiguous" (others have pointed out this is pretty redundant) but reads horribly, e.g. "I went to the new and state of the art hospital." Like... what?
posted by baptismal at 4:10 PM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


dotting your i's and crossing your t's

"Dotting your ies and crossing your tees" ref.

Apostrophe is used in English writing for two purposes when writing American English(*); marking a contraction (as in won't) and marking a possessive (as in Alice's). I regretfully confess other sources of grammar prescriptivism do allow for an apostrophic exception for plural forms as bizarre as i's and t's. That still doesn't allow something as awful as C.E.O.'s as a plural. You will find sources that say that's OK too, including the esteemed NYTimes. They are wrong. No plurals ever is the simplest rule and should be universally accepted.

(All said with tongue mostly in cheek. I'm the last person to be a grammar prescriptivist for spoken language. I love English in all its divers forms. Sometimes I get shirty when it comes to written language though, particularly things that are typographically hideous.)

(*) In America we also often use apostrophe to indicate other non-American-English sounds. Like the ʻokina marking the glottal stop in Hawaiian, including American loan words like Hawaiʻi. That is properly written with the ʻokina itself, a sort of backwards apostrophe, but lazy or impoverished typists often make do with a regular apostrophe. See also Yup'ik or the artificial language Klingon. Oddly, we never use an apostrophe to mark an actual English language glottal stop; you never find a novel talking about a Cockney drinking a bo'l of beer, even when the writing is attempting to capture accent with non-standard spellings.
posted by Nelson at 4:31 PM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


Can't we all just coöperate?
posted by Hot Pastrami! at 5:45 PM on August 31, 2019 [11 favorites]


I love English in all its divers forms.

I see what thou didst, though it seem pehap forct.
posted by traveler_ at 5:49 PM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


'postrophes 're s'posed t' be used f'r 'lision 'steada f'r plurals.
posted by aubilenon at 5:49 PM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


As a freelance copywriter, incorrect hyphen usage drives me completely nuts.

Actually, being a freelance copywriter drives me completely nuts to begin with, but lazy hyphen usage is the quickest way to escort me to Crazy Copy Town.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 5:58 PM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


Apparently there is going to be less hyphens, like, multiple less hyphens???
posted by sylvanshine at 6:15 PM on August 31, 2019


This is just incorrect. I mean, what about words like "re-examined" (which is included in the article)? Will that remain hyphenated or will it become "re examined?" There is no such word as "re." That's just a prefix used to indicate that an action is being performed again.
posted by Delia at 6:17 PM on August 31, 2019


Delia: that's not really germane - the AP change only was about compound modifiers, like "low-voltage lighting" and says nothing about using it when you should really use a dieresis, or using it to split a word across lines, or even for cases where it's ambiguous, like "blunt-nose hair trimmers" (or "blunt nose-hair trimmers")
posted by aubilenon at 6:32 PM on August 31, 2019


Irregardless [sic] of apostrophes, this no-hyphen thing is straight BS.
posted by notsnot at 6:37 PM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


Isn’t the point of this kind of threat to specifically tell them what’s good for them? So how could they not know!

Idioms, how do they work?

"Spiderman." It's not "Spiderman," you idiots! It's "Spider-Man!" Have you ever held a comic book in your hands?!

Then what's up with "Iron Man"? No hyphen, two words. Meanwhile, over in DC world it's Batman, Superman, and Aquaman, or Wonder Woman. DC don't need no stinkin' hypens!
posted by fuse theorem at 7:25 PM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


I see AP is pandering to the D- writers on newspaper staffs.

AP also changed its style on Kiev, Ukraine, to Kyiv. I have many fewer feelings about this change than I do the hyphen atrocity.
posted by bryon at 8:10 PM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


Her report card was straight bs?

Or it could be gay Bs.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:04 PM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


Some previous examples of AP style going downhill --

2019:
* Calling for the percent symbol (%), instead of the word “percent,” in body copy.
* Ending the use of the hyphen in words where the prefix ends in “e” and the root word start with “e,” such as in “reenter.”

2018:
* “Marijuana is the dried flower of the cannabis plant. ‘Cannabis’ is the usual term outside North America; it and ‘pot’ are also acceptable. Slang terms such as weed, reefer and ganja are acceptable in limited, colloquial cases or in quotations.”

2011:
* Ending the use of a hyphen in “e-mail.”
posted by NotLost at 10:57 PM on August 31, 2019


As best I can tell, plenty of US companies don’t use hyphens at all, never mind use them correctly. Accepting this has made my life easier as a business writer. It has nothing to do with my preferences or style guides and everything to do with actual clients. I am such an Old that I remember when line editors, copy editors, and proofreaders did three different kinds of editorial work. Now every job “opportunity” I see is looking for folks who can do video editing, use Adobe Suite, be masters of Word Press, coach other writers, be prolific copywriters, and fact-check as well as proof the work of others.

So yeah, hyphens.

Do not misunderstand me, OP. I am glad you posted this, thanks!
posted by Bella Donna at 12:29 AM on September 1, 2019 [6 favorites]


My provocative half baked theory of hyphenation is that "a-b c" versus "a b c" should depend on whether these are spoken differently. In speech there are two ways to tell: the context, but also the cadences and micro pauses. Writing and speech should be as bijective a mapping as possible because that's just good language design, and a truly phonetic natural language can, and should be redesigned for the better. Thus a hyphen is needed if and only if people are basically speaking the hyphens, for example if "a-b" is pronounced more quickly and with emphasis than "a b" when they modify "c". Kind of like sheet music notation.
posted by polymodus at 12:59 AM on September 1, 2019


Huh.

Would you look at that.

I have never noticed the hyphen in Spider-Man until just now. This is gonna haunt me just like the FedEx arrow.
posted by Faintdreams at 3:26 AM on September 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


Another peeve is putting "home" and "page" together as "homepage."
posted by NotLost at 6:55 AM on September 1, 2019


Early in my career I was an editor for scientific and technical publications at a national laboratory. One engineer, a prolific generator of said reports, loved noun-and-adjective piles: “six inch fast gate valve” is one that sticks with me to this day. I would insert hyphens as needed, and in so doing would sometimes disambiguate a phrase in a way the author did not intend, prompting the Wise Old Man on the editorial staff to quip: “The editor, in changing your meaning, sometimes coincidentally reveals it.”
posted by theoriginalkdawson at 7:18 AM on September 1, 2019 [2 favorites]



When I played in the first inning, the first run hit was exciting. But then, the first-run hit of the second inning is typically more exciting. First-run hits are several first run hits, depending Okay, that might not be true.

If you are not a baseball fan the distinction is less than moot, sort of in the same league as an RBI, what ever that is. I used to get the ERA thing mixed up with the political thing that was happening back then, you know, the one about the glass ceiling. I mean, when did they decide to stop using periods after initials, like CIA and USA? Em dash, en dash, my comPuter screws it up when I convert COURIER NEW to TIMES NEW ROMAN. What-'s-more, now I have to remember not to put two spaces after a goddam period. I wasted two semesters taking typing in high-school, learning to do that using those great old Underwood-manual-typewriters, when I could have taken that extra library-science class. Nothing like slapping that carriage return to let off a little steam. Okay, that was a bust, too, because now "they've"** dropped the perfectly good Dewey-Decimal system for that other thing, whatever that is, so pretty much all that stuff I learned I that one library-science-class is useless now. I'm pretty sure that English course I had to take in summer school is time-down-the-drain, too.

Okay, okay, never mind that. In a football game, why do the guys who win the coin toss get to keep the coin, and the other guys spend the rest of the game yelling "Get the quarter back." ? Huh? answer me that one. And where does the goddam [?] thing go?

**They've : you know, "Them"
posted by mule98J at 10:32 AM on September 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


I recognize the council has made a decision, but given that it's a stupid-ass decision, I've elected to ignore it.
posted by webmutant at 5:03 PM on September 1, 2019


Stupid ass-decision, you say?
posted by aubilenon at 8:22 PM on September 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


Is that you, Jesse Stone?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:12 AM on September 2, 2019


If you think Spider-Man is strange: The novel Moby-Dick is about a whale named Moby Dick.
posted by steef at 8:40 AM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


I read that whole dang book without realizing the title is hyphenated
posted by aubilenon at 11:48 AM on September 2, 2019


I'm not OK with "okay."
posted by sjswitzer at 9:07 PM on September 2, 2019


I was just shown a book blurb:

The wizard cow tips dragons

VERY DISAPPOINTED not to have a bovine magician
posted by clew at 12:35 PM on September 4, 2019


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