A note on the hyphen

Note: This is a deviation from the usual content on Critical Mess. But as it says right up there in the header, “Everything is text.” And today, “text” includes epidemics of punctuation errors.


My resume says I have a “passion for appropriate hyphen usage.” This isn’t me trying to be cute. This is just a fact. Hyphens are my personal windmills. Every day I tilt at examples of their misuse on the internet, wailing and railing and ultimately failing to change anything. When I’m done wailing, I take a screenshot of the offense and drag it into a desktop folder entitled “Word Crimes.”

For some time now, the worst repeat offender has been the Unmoored Compound Modifier. When two words work together to describe one thing, that is called a compound modifier, and it is compounded with the aid of your friendly neighborhood hyphen. All too often, though, your friendly neighborhood hyphen is neglected and left to sulk at home. Do you know how many “award winning journalists” are not award-winning grammarians? So, so many.

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