Hyphens, En Dashes, Em Dashes

Q. I tend to let my ear be my guide—and usually that works—so I need some clarification to ensure I’m on the right track. Can you clarify that I am using my hyphens correctly? Facilitate a core-team workshop to discuss . . . Develop a future-state document . . . Conduct a future-state assessment . . . Identify change-management opportunities.

A. Maybe it’s time for a Q-tip. This kind of business-speak can become a habit to the point where we no longer hear the ambiguities. Is a “future-state document” about the future of your state or the state of the future? Are change-management opportunities about changing management or managing change? Hyphens should be a last resort. Instead, try writing in more natural English: Facilitate a workshop where the core team will discuss . . . Develop a document that looks ahead . . . Assess the future of . . . Identify opportunities to manage change.