Last week we talked about hyphens, and there was a lot to take in, so we’re going to continue with one of the other rules of hyphens – using them when a word is cut in half and the remainder of it is either in the next column or on the next page.
I used the Chicago Manual of Style (great for writers and editors – AP style is perfect for reporters and journalists), and the Chicago rules is that when a word needs to be broken, the hyphen comes at the natural breaking parts, the syllables of the word. Now, I might be the only person who groans at this, but I have a slight confession to make. I hate counting syllables (which I had to do in poetry class). Why? Because somehow I never arrive at the same number as everyone else. Or my words would end at different places.
Which brings me to a little know website, How Many Syllables. Enter a word and it’ll tell you how many there are, where they are divided, and the stressed syllable as well, in addition to other information.
I chose to channel my inner Whovian and look up – Exterminate!
Extermiante has 4 syllables and divides into ex-ter-mi-nate. Out of those four syllables, the stress is on the second one, ter. If I ever need to write about Daleks and the word runs onto the next page or column, I have four places that I can put a hyphen at.
If the word your using has another word inside it though, it’s best to be a little careful about where the hyphen is.
Fundamentalist has 5 syllables and divides into fun-da-men-tal-ist. Putting the hyphen after “fun” might confuse the reader a little bit as it’s a word on its own, so if possible try to put the hyphen at a place where the reader knows the word has been broken in half – if I was writing this, I’d probably put the hyphen after “funda-.”
One of the other rules about consistency in spelling is that the Chicago Manual of Style uses Merriam-Webster as their go-to dictionary (and yes, I did look the word up to make sure the hyphen was correct).
While I was researching hyphens and spelling consistency, I came across this great article (a little older as it’s from 2007) but it’s “mourning” the sixteen thousand words that lost their hyphens in the Oxford English Dictionary. Which… might explain my strangeness with the word ice cream.
- American (Merriam-Webster) noun: ice cream
- American (Merriam-Webster) adjective: ice-cream cone
- British (Oxford English Dictionary) noun: ice-cream (previously, but ice cream now)
English, no matter the region it comes from, it a living language, so things keep on changing.
- Electronic mail -> E-mail -> e-mail -> email
- (Has anyone said “the world wide web” lately?)
- Internet -> internet (Chicago says it doesn’t need to be capitalised anymore).
Hopefully this helps any hyphen dilemmas you might have, and happy writing!