Hyphens, En Dashes, Em Dashes
Q. Hi. I work for a county auditor’s office which publishes a voters’ guide for each general election and primary. Each candidate writes his or her own statement to the voters, as do supporters and opponents of ballot measures. In the interest of space and fairness, we limit the number of words each writer can use. Our recurring question: should we count a hyphenated word group (such as “32-year-old”) as one word or three? I’m in favor of counting such constructions as one word. What’s your vote? Thanks!
Q. My reputable dictionaries give “transpacific” and “transatlantic” but not “transindian.” On its own, “his transindian voyage” would probably be ambiguous, but if I were to write “his transpacific, transatlantic, and transindian voyages were remarkable feats,” there would appear to be little risk of ambiguity. Would you consider that acceptable? If not, how should I express such a thing?
Q. A bill has been proposed dealing with price gouging. Would it be correct to write Anti-Price Gouging Act or Anti-Price-Gouging Act? I have seen it both ways.
Q. Are poets allowed poetic license to do practically anything with punctuation? I ask this in view of a poem by Emily Dickinson that seems to use the em dash in bewildering and inscrutable ways.
Q. In a previous Q&A, a curious reader asked you to weigh in on the subject of hyphenated Americans. You responded that “ CMOS prefers not to hyphenate Americans of any sort, even when they appear in an adjective phrase.” Were it actually an adjectival phrase, like “apathetic Americans,” I would be inclined to agree; however, I maintain that the examples “African-American,” “Asian-American,” and even “Native-American” (or as I prefer, American-Indian) are all compound proper nouns and must be hyphenated. They are not merely Americans who happen to be African, but rather African-Americans—a distinct ethnic and cultural group. Irrefutable logic?
Q. I work for a travel company and we are trying to figure out the proper way to write “eight-night stay.” I feel the number should be spelled out with a hyphen, while other people feel “8 night” is correct. I’ve been trying to find an answer in the style guide, but no luck. Thanks for the help.
Q. When does one use hyphenation to break words? I already looked at the Manual and still have some questions. I have heard that when the text has a jagged right edge no hyphens should occur and when text is justified it is allowed. What about magazines, leaflets, fliers, catalogs? Can one be more liberal in these and if so is there some guideline on this?
Q. Is it: early-fourth-century-AD amphora? What is proper way to handle early fourth century AD amphora?
Q. I’ve tried to Look It Up, and I know other people are curious about this question, too—some of ’em can’t even sleep at night for worrying about it—so I’m writing you, O Mighty Editors, to ask where do the hyphens go in the phrase “two and a half times the price”???
Q. In a scholarly book about popular culture, the author has used several -esque word endings, usually hyphenated. According to CMOS instructions for the similar constructions of -wide, -like, and -borne, I would be inclined to remove the hyphen. But the result is unsavory. Also, in the case of open compounds, should the -esque ending acquire an en dash? See the following: Tarantinoesque, Skeeteresque, Gandalfesque, Billy Idolesque, Sid Vicious–like, John Paul–esque, The Parallax View–esque.