GrammarPhile Blog

More Compound Adjectives

Posted by Julie DeSilva   Dec 6, 2011 5:30:00 PM

We began last week's post with "No aspect of style causes greater difficulty than compound adjectives." Some readers took exception to that statement. Okay, it was over the top, perhaps. But you would just not believe the debates these things can cause when a group of strong-willed (strong willed?) grammarians get together and haggle over a client's document! Surely we can all agree that mistakes concerning compound adjectives are at least far too commonplace.

Here are two more rules, with examples, covering some words you may have wondered about:

A number of adjective-noun combinations (such as real estate or social security) and noun-noun combinations (such as life insurance or money market) are actually well-established compound nouns serving as adjectives. Unlike short-term, low-risk, red-carpet, and part-time, these expressions refer to well-known concepts or institutions. Because they are easily grasped as a unit, they do not require a hyphen.

  • accounts payable records
  • branch office reports
  • income tax return
  • life insurance policy
  • public relations adviser
  • word processing center
  • nuclear energy plant
  • social security tax
  • exception: a mail-order business

When a compound adjective consists of a noun plus an adjective, hyphenate this combination whether it appears before or after the noun.

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Topics: hyphenation, adjectives

Compound Adjectives

Posted by Julie DeSilva   Nov 29, 2011 5:30:00 AM

No aspect of style causes greater difficulty than compound adjectives. When a compound adjective is shown hyphenated in the dictionary, you can assume only that the expression is hyphenated when it occurs directly before a noun. When the same combination of words falls elsewhere in the sentence, the use or omission of hyphens depends on how the words are used.

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Topics: hyphenation, adjectives

The Internet, Email, and E-Books

Posted by Conni Eversull   May 10, 2011 5:30:00 AM

The following is a guest post by Alexis Bonari.

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Topics: hyphenation, capitalization

Grammar Questions Answered

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Mar 22, 2011 5:30:00 AM

Here are some questions we've received from readers and clients, followed by our answers. Hope you find these helpful!

Question:  Would you hyphenate "we must perform our work with a high-level of technical expertise, professionalism, and integrity"?

Answer:  In this example, there should be no hyphen in "high level" - that's because it is not a compound adjective. "Level" is a noun that is modified by "high."

Now, if you take out the word "of" there, then "high-level" becomes a compound adjective and it IS hyphenated. "We need high-level expertise in order to compete."

More examples:

  • He displayed a high level of intelligence.
  • She is a high-level consultant at Monsanto.
  • They sought higher-level access at the Kennedy Space Center.
  • He showed a high level of interest in our design.

Question:  It is my understanding that abbreviations such as "etc., i.e., and e.g." are only used parenthetically, if at all. Why not simply write "and so forth, that is, and for example"?

Answer:  Yes, why not use "that is" and "for example"? Well, sometimes people want to be quicker with their writing, so abbreviations are brought in. Some clients of ours have in their style guides prohibitions on using these abbreviations, but most people rely on them, we see.

The biggest trouble we see with them is when writers confuse them, using "i.e." when they mean "e.g." And in British form, neither takes a comma, whereas in American form, both take commas.

Style guides say it's a matter of personal preference. We'd never change "for example" to "e.g." in a client document, and we'd only change "e.g." to "for example" if the style guide directed us to.

Question:  What's the rule for writing the name of a newsletter--italicized or underlined?

Answer:  Chicago style (Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition) has this:

CMS8.2: Chicago prefers italics to set off titles of major or freestanding works such as books, journals, movies, and paintings...Quotation marks are usually reserved for the titles of subsections of larger works--including chapter and article titles and the titles of poems that have been collected into a series.

Chicago does not use underlining at all, apparently.

So, we suggest putting a newsletter title in italics.

Do you have any questions you'd like our grammar experts to answer? Click here to submit your question!

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Topics: hyphenation, italicize, adjectives, abbreviations, grammar, Chicago Manual of Style

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