1. Rob40
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    Rob40 Active Member

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    hyphen vs. word count

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Rob40, Feb 14, 2016.

    Question.
    Given word count limits placed on submission limitations, where do hyphenated words stand? I have found indications that a hyphenated word counts as one word. Now, that may be all and good but when the hyphenated word comes from joining phrases together becasue I'm (EoS) using a dash when a more common mark of punctuation seems inadequate, and not from the word itself requiring a hyphen, then the word processor thinks it's one word where if I use a comma, it becomes two. With a competition entry and a word limit, a writer could use this tactic and use hyphens as much as possibble to kind of cheat the word count and squeeze more material in.

    How do the regulators of contests determine where the count is truly at given this hyphen scenario?

    Example from somethig I'm working with: "He knew the time without looking-every visit felt the same."

    For sake of solving for X, let's assume this is the phraseology I want to use in the end.
    I could use a period in the middle, making two sentences. (+1 word)
    I could use a comma. (+1 word)
    If I were confused about how to use a hyphen and spaced on either side of the hyphen, the processer wigs out. (+2 words)

    So, what's the actual official way of counting in this case?
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you write it that way, you want to use an em-dash, not an n-dash or hyphen. I expect the word processor might treat an m-dash differently than a hyphen?
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I'm with @BayView. What you're doing wouldn't use a hyphen, if we're to be pedantic about it, and I think a bit of pedantry is in order here. It should be an m-dash. MS Word counts it at 11 words with an m-dash, 10 with an n-dash (hyphen).
     
  4. Rob40
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    Rob40 Active Member

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    Just tested, Word 2013 counts an extra word using the Em dash...two --'s and a space after the second word auto-corrects it to the Em. Huh.
     
  5. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    That seems logical to me - it IS another word, after all.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I'm using Word 2011 (Mac) and mine stays just like this: He knew the time without looking--every visit felt the same.

    But, I have mine set that way for work-work reasons. In this fashion, it reads it at 11 words, which is the true count of words. If you put spaces, yeah, it reads an extra word. I would do it sans spaces. This will keep you square with the contest. If those running the contest accept other things and word counts and unusual typographical situations that end up causing different word counts in the pieces of others, you don't really have much control over that.
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was going to talk about this in detail, and use the contrary example of "bubble-bath", but something occurred to me: Shouldn't above use an emdash, and wouldn't that solve the problem?

    Edited to add: Cross posted. :)
     
  8. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    In addition to the above, keep in mind that there is usually some leeway when it comes to word counts. For example, when submitting a manuscript, you never give the exact number of words. Instead, you round to the nearest ten or hundred depending on if it's a short story or novel, respectively (this may differ depending on the market).
     
  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I round to the closest 5 000 when I'm subbing a novel! (Possibly I've gotten a little lackadaisical about that...)
     
  10. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I may be off a bit. It might be round to the nearest 100 for stories and 1000 for novels. It's been a while since I checked this stuff. I think William Shunn has the guidelines on his website.
     
  11. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Nearest 1k, 5k or even 10k. Agents/publishers don't seem to care as long as you're in the right ballpark. The number could easily change by 10k during editing anyway.
     
  12. uncephalized
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    uncephalized Active Member

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    I use two significant digits. If the count is < 1000 words, round to the nearest 10. If <10,000, the nearest 100 words, and so on. So my word counts always look like "about 520 words" and "about 47,000 words" and "about 3,500 words" and so on.

    I would not use hyphens to lower my word count, I would edit and remove some words if I were over a limit. You can always cut it down further.
     
  13. JLT
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    JLT Active Member

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    I agree that an em-dash is what's called for here. Maybe I'm wrong about this, but I also use a space before and after the em-dash (or two successive hyphens, which Word and other word processors automatically convert to an em-dash, if you've set it up to do it that way). Is that standard practice?
     
  14. uncephalized
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    uncephalized Active Member

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    I've seen this done, but I prefer it without the spaces. Never seen the point of them.
     

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