Quote of the Day

more Quotes

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Prefix and Suffix Hyphenation Tip

As a professional copy editor of more than seven years now, I see lots of manuscripts. As a longtime lover of reading, I read a lot of books. And hyphenation problems abound in both (yes, traditionally published as well as Indie pubbed).

For instance, I'm reading a 2003 nonfiction paperback right now, a how-to guide directed at authors, by a well-known traditional publisher (which I will not name here) and already have multiple marginalia concerning misspellings (dealing with unneeded hyphens), and I'm only on page 34 of 241 total pages. Sad but true. And this publisher should be using the same American book guidelines as I do (16CMS and Web11, defined below). I usually contact the publisher with these finds for correction in the next reprint, as I will for this one.

Anyway ...

So here's your quick overall tip regarding hyphenation when affixing prefixes and suffixes to a word:




Yes. You read that right. And you will be correct more times than not if you DO NOT hyphenate when adding prefixes and suffixes to other words. There are exceptions of course, but for general purposes DO NOT hyphenate when adding prefixes/suffixes.

Want examples?

Here are some: prenuptial agreement, postpartum depression, preschool, antebellum, midday, nonfiction (this one is a particular pet peeve of mine, especially when misspelled as "non-fiction" by authors, authors of nonfiction!), etc.

I don't know if a quick glance at the dictionary is causing this problem or not. After all, there is a "post-" prefix entry and a "post" as a noun entry and a "post" entry as a verb, adverb, etc. The hyphen in the initial prefix entry just differentiates the bald, stand-alone prefix from the noun/verb/adverb entries.

NOTE: Just because there is a prefix entry (like "anti-") or a suffix entry (like "-ward") that INITIALLY shows the hyphen to connote its "fixability" (affixing to another word) DOES NOT MEAN THE HYPHEN STAYS WHEN JOINING IT TO A WORD. Read further in the dictionary's entries to see the actual uses of the prefix or suffix. You will most likely not see the hyphen in use there with the examples.

If you want to delve further into this, then look up each compound word in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition (Web11) to confirm.

However, beware, because sometimes 16CMS 7.85 (The Chicago Manual of Style, Sixteenth Edition, rule 7.85) will override Web11, meaning 16CMS allows more hyphenless prefix/suffix combinations than Web11 shows, in keeping with 16CMS's "spare hyphenation" rule.

For a further level into this madness called the English language, I could tell you about the exceptions, then about the exceptions to the exceptions. I kid you not.

The basic hyphenation exception is that, if two of the same vowels end up together (like "anti-inflammatory" with its two Is), then you need the hyphen for added clarity. BUT that doesn't always work with two Es. For example, "pre-engineered" is hyphenated per Web11. Yet "preenrollment" is not, also per Web11. Go figure.

Hence my earlier statement regarding "exceptions to the exceptions."

So I suggest everyone wanting the easiest fix to just go with the basic rule discussed above: DON'T HYPHENATE WHEN AFFIXING PREFIXES AND SUFFIXES TO WORDS.

As a copy editor, I thank you. You authors who end up using my copyediting services have made my job so much easier and have made your manuscript so much "cleaner."

As a reader, I thank you. You authors not using me as a copy editor have made my reading pleasure so much more enjoyable as my copy editor side didn't kick in during my reading-for-fun time.

In case you are interested, I'll be doing more of these copyediting tip posts as my work allows. In other words, if I'm busy copyediting projects, you won't see many of these. If I'm not busy earning a living, then you'll see more posts like these.

Here's to happily reading more good books. There will never be a shortage of good books, so, authors, both traditionally and Indie published, keep on writing!

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra

No comments:

Post a Comment