for want of a hyphen (“I want hyphen”)

F FROM TODAY’S SEATTLE TIMES (July 19, 2013) and a piece titled “Gun-rights group sues city over emails allegedly withheld” (page B1): an organization called Washington CeaseFire is described as “an anti-gun violence group.” Technically, this is correct: the hyphen is necessary to link “anti” with “gun.” But the word “violence “ is left hanging: one could read this as saying that the group was against guns but prone to violence in its efforts to achieve its goals.

While another hyphen is NOT properly required, I believe that extra punctuation that assists the reader in understanding exactly what the writer intends should be encouraged. In this case, had there been two hyphens (as in “anti-gun-violence”), there would be NO doubt as to the fact that Washington CeaseFire was a group attempting to stop the spread of violence caused by gun-users.

Needless to say—a phrase virtually every grammar guide warns against using—I am probably NOT going to have my way on this issue in the foreseeable future. (Unless, of course, this site becomes as popular as Julie Powell’s blog was in 2002-2003.) I can always run around singing “I want hyphen” to the tune of I Want Candy . . .


CeaseFire_header2

HEADER IMAGE: A romanticist’s fantasy: as much as it seems logical to assume that arming women prevents rape, it just ain’t so. If it were, we would be reading regular news articles about women standing off rapists if not outright shooting them. We don’t. What we do read is statistics telling us that bringing a gun into our homes dramatically increases the likelihood of our dying by a gun. Your call, really . . .


Strunk_Elements_(5)_600

William Strunk Jr’s original edition of The Elements Of Style (1919) was all of fifty-three pages long. In 1959, it was revised and expanded by one of his students, the famous children’s book author E.B. White. It is one of the best-selling and most influential grammar and punctuation books ever published. I have used the authors’ names for one of the categories of this site: Strunkandwhiten It! For more information, refer to “On William Strunk and Elements of Style.”


2 thoughts on “for want of a hyphen (“I want hyphen”)

  1. Neal – excellent observation! To help clarify the matter, the words could have been written as: “anti-gun violence” group.

    1. nealumphred@hotmail.com July 20, 2013 — 2:53 PM

      I have learned to only use double quote marks (“”) around actual quotes, either statements of others that I am inserting in my paragraph, or my quoting a former statement of my own from earlier in the text. Your suggestion would work, but the poor, underused, misunderstood hyphen is my pet these days. (Last year, it was the ‘m’-dash, another priceless piece of punctuation that is either underused or misused by most writers.)

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