Grammar Tip – Hyphens

A BizWritingTip reader wrote to tell me about an article she had just received titled Thousands of Hyphens Perish as English Marches On. I really appreciated it as I try to keep as up to date as possible.

The article discussed why the latest edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary has removed the hyphens from about 16,000 words. After exhaustive research, the authors decided to write some compound nouns as two words or to combine them into one, e.g., bumble-bee is written as bumblebee, and ice-cream is spelled ice cream.

The reason given is that hyphens look messy and old fashioned. As printed writing is appearance driven, it seemed more appealing to remove them. Interesting. I love to see when changes are made. Then I went to my Oxford Canadian Dictionary.

I was surprised to note that all the changes mentioned in the article already exist in the Canadian edition. In fact, they are also in the 2000 edition. Is Britain following Canada in terms of the English language?

Note: When a word is serving as an adjective and you want to avoid confusion, you will still need a hyphen: up-to-date report, long-term care and environment-friendly packaging. However, when it comes to nouns refer to your dictionary.

All offices should have at least one current dictionary available to staff. If your office dictionary does not contain the word email, buy a new one!