Thursday, October 14, 2004

AP style refresher 2

I had to look this up yesterday, in the hyphens entry in the punctuation section:
Many combinations that are hyphenated before a noun are not hyphenated when they occur after a noun: The team scored in the first quarter. The dress, a bluish green, was attractive on her. She works full time. His attitude suggested that he knew it all.

But when a modifier that would be hyphenated before a noun occurs instead after a form of the verb to be, the hyphen usually must be retained to avoid confusion: The man is well-known. The woman is quick-witted. The children are soft-spoken. The play is second-rate.
This came up in a discussion of a sentence like "Compared with Bob, he is less-understood." The hyphen looked awkward to me, but it certainly follows that AP rule.

Any thoughts?


At 8:24 PM, October 14, 2004, Blogger Bill said...

I'm not sure AP means exactly what it says there, and "less" modifiers are among the first to lose their hyphens in not-so-hyphen-happy publications, even in modifiers before a noun.

I try to frame the issue in terms of whether the phrase makes any sense in non-hyphenated form. "Less understood" makes sense in a way that "quick witted" and "soft spoken" and "second rate" do not. "The man is well known" strikes me as fine.

At 9:46 PM, October 14, 2004, Blogger Nicole said...

And they also seem to follow the "Can you invert it?" rule that I made up somewhere along the line:
He is understood less (works).
He is known well (works).
He is witted quick (nope).
He is spoken soft (nope).
He is rate second (nope).

But AP's rule specifically calls for the well-known hyphen. I throw my hands up.


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