Need to give your writing a shot in the arm? Can a hyphen perk up your literary pearls? Not if you use it incorrectly, as a writer for Yahoo! Sports illustrates:
What do you do when you come up against a clash of styles? I’m not talking about wearing Birkenstocks with a prom gown, I’m talking about writing and trying to follow conflicting editorial guidelines. Case in point (or case and point, as one Yahoo! writer would say), this age on the Yahoo! front page:
If you follow Associated Press style, you’d use numerals (not words) for the age of a person. But AP style also recommends not starting a sentence with numerals (except if the numerals are a year). If you write out the age correctly, it would be: Forty-nine-year-old. That’s a lot of hyphens. And it would violate the rule requiring numerals for the age of a person. So that would be: 49-year-old. But numerals can’t go at the beginning of a sentence.
I’m starting to feel a little dizzy.
What to do? Recast the sentence, of course! You’ll get a shorter sentence that’s easier to read without all those hyphens:
Bernard Hopkins, 49, seeks a historic bout…
There’s something really weird going on at yahoo.com. The number of bone-headed mistakes on that page has exploded. Is it a new writing staff? A bunch of interns hired for the summer? Outsourcing to a non-English-speaking country? Here’s just some of the things spotted on today’s Yahoo! front page.
If the marathon you’re writing about is in Boston, it’s the Boston Marathon (with a big M). That’s not the only thing I’d quibble about, though. I can’t say I agree with the statement that “retrievers are used to distract” people. There are many, many documented benefits to petting a dog, including lowering blood pressure:
Here’s a use of chide that’s new to me: It’s used as a transitive verb (meaning it has a direct object, in this case decision), so it means “to reprimand or scold mildly.” I don’t think anyone was chiding the decision — the person who made the decision, maybe was chided.
Ah, the old subject-verb disagreement. There can’t be any disagreement that the subject is tenor and the verb should be is. Also, there’s that dangling modifier at the beginning of the sentence, which appears to modify tenor (which makes no sense), though it likely should modify the writing on the boat:
OK, here’s a mystery for you: What was Iran stockpiling? Government cheese? This doesn’t contain a grammatical or spelling error. This is what is known as an error of omission: It tells you nothing.
I almost spit out my sugar-free, nonfat vanilla latte when I read this:
The name of that café is a mouthful, n’est-ce pas? The hilarity continues when you realize that the poor French-challenged writer has mashed up Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots.
If you’re reading something online right now (and I think you are), then according to Yahoo!, that is the reason you procrastinate. It is not what you do when you procrastinate, it is the cause of the procrastination. Good to know.
Here’s one you can disagree with, but according to the American Heritage Dictionary, the preferred spelling in the U.S. is disk:
And we’re back to that old bugaboo — matching a subject (series) with its verb (hint: it shouldn’t be show):
Finally, there’s another preferred spelling: light-years (with a hyphen):
Whew! That’s all for now. And by that I mean, I’m going to go get two Advils and lie down.
Let’s relegate the use of a hyphen after an adverb ending in -LY to the Grammar Slammer. While we’re at it, let’s make a citizen’s arrest and haul in the Yahoo! Shine writer who also thinks that delegating is the right word:
I had never heard (or read) anyone use delegate when relegate was the word that was called for — until I started reading Yahoo!. Relegate means “to assign to an obscure place, position, or condition.” Delegate means “to commit or entrust to another.”
The writers at Yahoo! Shine can’t seem to make up their mind: Is it hyphenated or not?
This kind of embarrassing inconsistency is the reason that a website that is serious about the quality of its content has a style guide and a standard dictionary and requires its writers and editors to adhere to both.
What’s the best-case scenario for the Yahoo! front page? That you’d never find a misspelling, typo, missing word, or ugly grammar ever. What’s the worst-case scenario? That you’d find all that and more on yahoo.com. Those are the best- and worst-case scenarios.
But is that what the writer for yahoo.com meant here?
What the writer actually wrote was: Best scenarios and worst-case scenarios. Without the suspensive hyphen in best-, there’s no way to tell that it is associated with the word case. A suspensive hyphen shows the omission of a repeated word. It’s a way to avoid saying “best-case, worst-case scenarios.”
The use of the suspensive hyphen is a mystery to many Yahoo! scribes. Maybe the writer for yahoo.com was following the lead of the Einstein at Yahoo! Sports who wrote this:
or the person who wrote this headline:
It’s like an epidemic of punctuation omissions over at Yahoo!.
How many typos, misspellings, and wrong word choices does it take before you question the credibility of a news article? If the article is written by a Yahoo! News staffer, I start with an attitude of skepticism, which is buttressed by the errors that are sure to be there.
I can count on there being at least one homophonic error. In this article, the writer claims an ice sculpture was discretely wheeled into a hotel suite:
Unless that sculpture was delivered in bits of ice cubes, it was brought in discreetly, so as not to attract attention.
A typo in a photo caption isn’t the worst thing you’ll find in the article:
But a second homophonic error just might be:
Perhaps it’s a rite of passage at Yahoo! News: You can’t get a byline until you’ve made at least three boneheaded mistakes in a single article.
Here’s a makeshift spelling of makeshift:
There’s nothing wrong with this paragraph except for the arbitrarily capitalized former and the spelling of Dinesh D’Souza and Cathy McMorris Rodgers:
Two of those mistakes would get you sent to the woodshed in a legitimate news organization. But wait! There’s more! Here, the writer claims there was a big band consisting of 16 pieces:
and yet in the photo caption, he’s added a musician:
Perhaps the writer was enjoying the contents of the kegerator when he wrote this:
and then forgot that if you use a dollar sign, you shouldn’t also use the word bucks (because that would be “20 dollars bucks”):
So, I’m not trustin’ too much (if anything) I read from this author. I guess for some, getting an article published is all that matters:
It’s a common error on yahoo.com — and throughout Yahoo! where its writers and editors lurk — but I wish it were rarely seen:
That hyphen joining the adverb rarely and the adjective that follows it is a problem. It’s just unnecessary and wrong. Just as it is here, too:
When an adverb ending in -LY is followed by an adjective, there’s no need for the hyphen; the -LY is the signal to the reader that the adverb modifies the word that follows it.
If you’re an NFL offensive free agent, don’t expect the same treatment as defensive free-agents — at least not on Yahoo! Sports:
That hyphen belongs to free-agents of the defensive kind. Never mind that most legitimate media companies have little things known as guidelines and standards for spelling words specific a topic like sports. It’s far preferable to spell some words with a hyphen and without a hyphen. It keeps things from getting boring for the reader. And it separates the defensive from the offensive.