1. Jowettc
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    Jowettc Contributing Member

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    Hyphen / comma conundrum

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Jowettc, Feb 13, 2012.

    Here is a new grammatical teaser for the learned.

    When you are splitting hyphenated words with a comma, what is the correct punctuation?

    Example:

    'It was both a power-, and life-, giving appliance.'

    Is the above strucutre correct or is it simpler to write,

    'It was both a power-giving and life-giving appliance.'

    AND - if you do want to separate hyphenated words is the orignial structure correct?
     
  2. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Or even:
    "It was both a power and life giving appliance."
    I don't see that 'power giving' or 'life giving' absolutely must be hyphenated. I know compound verbs are usually, and some words like part-time or self-help must be, but these don't fall into the categories of compound adjectives that must be hyphenated, according to rules I know (feel free to correct me if you can come up with a source I haven't come across).
     
  3. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd probably write it as "power and life-giving" - and leave it for my editor to decide ;)
     
  4. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    What are the commas doing there anyway? "It was both a power- and life-giving appliance" would (almost) be a standard German construct, but I don't think it's made its way into standard English yet. I also think there's a problem with "both", because I suspect that grammatically it binds to "appliance", so it invites the question "It was both an appliance and what?" (Drop the hyphens and the sentence parses as "It was both a) a power, and b) a life giving appliance, so that doesn't work either.

    It's probably fair to say that if you can't work out how to punctuate a sentence then it needs rephrasing. If all the options you try look wrong to you then even the right one is going to look wrong to the reader. I'd just go for "It was a power-giving and life-giving appliance."
     
  5. Lightman
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    Lightman Active Member

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    The correct form would be: It was both a power- and life-giving appliance.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yup!... lightman's right...

    and there was no reason whatsoever for those commas, in the first place...
     
  7. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, but are the hyphens necessary? I haven't found anything to indicate they are (I know for some compound adjectives they are, but not these).
     
  8. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know. Are there rules that apply here or is this simply a matter of usage? A look at google n-grams reveals that 'life giving' free of a hyphen is a very rare bird (across the last couple hundred years).

    Lightman's one, while perhaps correct, looks like an aborted maths equation.
    Digitig's suggestion, is better, I think, but is necessarily unwieldy.

    Tempting, in these sorts of instances to entirely recast (which conveniently sidesteps the question, of course):

    It was an appliance that gave both life and power.
     
  9. Jowettc
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    Jowettc Contributing Member

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    @madhoca - I believe they are necessary. Power-giving and Life-giving are both acting as adjectives to qualify the noun 'appliance'; therefore the use of the hphen is acceptable.

    @art - Although i can see your point - 'It was an appliance that gave both life and power' - feels a little like it has less impact in that form.

    @lightman - I believe your version looks the most gramatically correct - Think I will run with that one.

    Thnks all
     

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