1. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Contributor Contributor

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    Next of kin or next-of-kin

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Bruce Johnson, Jan 6, 2022.

    Should 'next of kin' be hyphenated when written in fiction? I can't find any examples where it is hyphenated, but it seems like the type of phrase where it would help with the flow when read for the first time.

    It seems google ignores hyphens, even when you put it within quotes, so I can't find any examples at all.
     
  2. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Honestly I don't think I've ever seen it hyphenated. It feels wrong to me to hyphenate it.
     
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  3. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Here's a Chicago Manual of Style entries on hyphenation—I haven\t done the legwork, but feel free if you want to wade through it:

    https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/search.html?clause=hyphenation

    EDIT—ah, well... I see you have to have an account to actually see the results, and there's a 30 day free trial (or would that be 30-day?) My bad. Let me try again...
     
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  4. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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  5. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Contributor Contributor

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    Thanks, the first result (which I can't open) does relate to why I thought if it in the first place: readability. I've never seen it hyphenated, but usually I've probably read it within articles where it's expected (insurance stuff, etc.). What if it appears in a paragraph of prose where it isn't anticipated?
     
  6. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Since the words are in the normal order and there's no difficulty in understanding, and no repetition of s's or other letters involved, it seems to me you're fine not hyphenating it.
     
  7. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Contributor Contributor

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    That does help, but...I'm confused by 6.47. I felt better about hyphenating it when I saw cost-of-living, even better when I saw the note in 6.47, but then it shows it without the hyphen. Maybe that's to show an example of what not to do?
     
  8. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Without checking the relevant section, it might be due to how the phrase is used. Example:
    • The cost-of-living index says...
    • Today the cost of living is skyrocketing...
     
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  9. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    So it could be like:
    • Fill out the next-of-kin form...
    • Notify the next of kin...
    I'm guessing here, but this sounds right to me. If the phrase is the way you'd use it in a normal sentence and it make sense, don't hyphenate. Only hyphenate if the phrase sounds odd and must be understood as a single until of words, or if there are awkward repetitions of letters.
     
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  10. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Contributor Contributor

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    Actually, reading 6.16, which I think you are referring to, says that hyphens shouldn't be used when the meaning is clear and readability can't be improved. In my example (which I haven't posted), the meaning is definitely clear, but I'm not sure about readability. It's in dialogue, so I'll probably just remove them.
     
  11. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    I read over a bunch of the entries and formed a gestalt understanding of what I think it all means. It conforms with my prior (admittedly completely intuitive) understanding, so I would go ahead and use it but research deeper into it for a while if I felt it necessary.
     
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  12. SapereAude

    SapereAude Contributor Contributor

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    Merriam-Webster does not hyphenate it: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/next%20of%20kin

    The Oxford learners' dictionary does not hyphenate it: https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/american_english/next-of-kin

    The Cambridge dictionary does not hyphenate it: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/next-of-kin

    All of which surprises me; I would have expected it to be hyphenated.
     
  13. SapereAude

    SapereAude Contributor Contributor

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    I didn't know there was such a thing (although I probably should have expected it). Dunno what purpose it may serve, but I tracked down the full 2016 version and downloaded it as a PDF for reference.
     
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  14. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Currently Reading::
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    I've looked into this a bit in the past.
    You hyphenate for clarity. You'll need it in a few cases, such as when you have a open compound noun acting like an adjective.

    I built a tree house. (open compound)
    I am a tree-house architect. (now hyphenated)​

    The reason is that otherwise you can read the phrase two ways.

    tree "house architect"
    vs
    "tree house" architect​

    So you have open compounds (garbage truck, day care, tree house) that can become hyphenated.

    I've heard it said that you always hyphenate an open compound used as an adjective. I've also heard that you can leave the hyphens off if it's totally obvious. So there's not total agreement, I'm afraid. As to whether a word is hyphenated, open, or closed, you just look it up. Google N-Grams helps too. Sometimes it makes no sense. Firetruck vs. garbage truck, for example. One's closed and one's open. I'd type that shrug emoji here but I can't remember the exact symbols.
     
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  15. SapereAude

    SapereAude Contributor Contributor

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    If'n it t'warnt fer rules with exceptions, we wouldn't have no rules a'tall. :twisted:
     
  16. ABeaujolais

    ABeaujolais Member

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    In my view you would use hyphens if you are combining words to create single part of speech. As others have noted, the same phrase could be hyphenated or not depending on how it is used.

    In Xoic's example of a "next-of-kin form," the next-of-kin is combined to create a single adjective. The phrase "Notify the next of kin" doesn't create one word or part of speech.

    Here's one to mull over. The ten-year-old boy is ten years old.
     
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  17. Set2Stun

    Set2Stun Active Member

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    Ye c'n tell tha hyphens ta knacker off 'ere mate
     
  18. SapereAude

    SapereAude Contributor Contributor

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    Thank you. That explains the way I have more or less intuitively looked at it.
     
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  19. evild4ve

    evild4ve Senior Member

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    https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=next-of-kin,+next+of+kin&year_start=1800&year_end=2019&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1;,next - of - kin;,c0;.t1;,next of kin;,c0

    This example has heir-at-law hyphenated and next of kin unhyphenated.
    https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/Reports_of_Cases_in_the_Law_of_Real_Prop/FX4DAAAAQAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq="next+of+kin"&pg=PA248&printsec=frontcover

    In the UK I don't think readers see next of kin as three separate words anymore. It's well on the way to becoming an irreducible bureaucratism: maybe "nexokin" rhyming with "Mexican."

    And I think the way it's said is already anticipating the change - in my local area "of" is usually stressed but in "next of kin" it contracts from ov into əv or just ə

    (I don't think this is quite the same as an idiom - those build up a meaning laterally from figurative uses of other words, whereas this is a legal concept forming... and being described... and then a phrase for it... which is gradually contracting... probably into a single word.)

    These people though who use single-volume dictionaries.
    https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.99996/page/n129/mode/2up
    This is usage 3 of Next about halfway down the first column of p.122

    (but get your forklift ready - it also cross-refers to the entry for Kin in another volume)
    https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.99995/page/n1221/mode/2up

    In the examples - from 889AD to 1875AD there are no hyphenated ones, but I think it's possible to see the phrase emerging out of natural language and starting to become an irreducible block.

    1380 - "Criste shulde be oure nexste ladir and his churche oure nexste modir" (from a time when we had leaders who leaded us and moders who moded us)
    1400 - "His sonne or þe next of his blude" (some people were still using thorn - daring hold-outs, survivalists, I salute them)
    1477 - "Youre most next parentes and frendes" (and I was sure it was next-nexter-nextest)
    1486 - "For my sake and othre unto whome he is of kin"
    1535 - "The nexte kynsman"
    1766 - "to call in the widow, or next of kin, to contest it"
    1875 - "the betrothal of the parties shall be made by the next of kin"

    It's no surprise it doesn't change between the 1700s and 1915 (the date of the dictionary these are from) - those bloody lexicographers
    Has it changed since 1875? Most certainly. Can anyone say how? I'd suggest not.
    I think I'll hyphenate with a view to where the language is going, rather than using the rear-view mirror of the OED.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2022
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  20. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Wot ‘e said.
     
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  21. ruskaya

    ruskaya Senior Member

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    Just a note. Manuals of style are really meant for works (papers, articles, books) produced within the world of academia and (academic, governmental, institutional) research, and for producing governmental documents (part of a cataloging system), etc. It provides a good coherent guide when you don't know how and why certain rules exist. However, I would say that checking the proper use of a word, especially a common one, on the dictionary is best, because dictionaries describe common use. Sometimes you cannot find good definitions of new or unusual words and expressions in dictionaries, so a manual of style helps you draw a rule for it. The most important rule is to be consistent--don't go around changing rules and putting hyphens in one instance and then not in the rest of your book, which is an easy mistake to make. Of course, manuals of style also offer formatting rules which may not appear elsewhere explained in detail, when in doubt it is best to use their formatting style because so many people had to use it in reading or writing papers in college or in reading journal articles, that it is an instantly recognizable order. Of course, there is also the option of taking a novel and copying the format of that one, but published formats don't always match manuscript format one is expected to submit. Sorry about the tangent, but I wanted to make clear my point about what and where one can find sources, or at least what I understand to be the best approach. One would think that being such an important matter for submitting manuscripts and publishing that there existed a definitive guide for that, but there isn't. o_O

    If you think I am thinking about this the wrong way, please do tell me, I am not fully sure I am correct.
     
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  22. ruskaya

    ruskaya Senior Member

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    I looked into CMOS and it also says that when in doubt first check the dictionary (in 7.81). For the most part, the use of hyphens is for making meaning clear like in unfair-practices charge which sounds a lot different from unfair practices charge. When a block of words is so well known and accepted that they are immediately read as a block, then you don't need to use hyphens because (overuse of) hyphens can visually clutter a sentence. I would say that next of kin falls into this category. However, other well known compounds are well accepted with the use of the hyphen like Twentieth-century.

    EDIT: sorry, I should have edited my post above and added the content of this post. I wasn't thinking and forgot to do that.
     
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  23. Also

    Also Student of Humanity Supporter

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    This is just one opinion / reaction, but I've never seen this as unclear or an issue.

    If you use cost of living or next of kin or twentieth century or any comparable term as a compound adjective, it gets hyphens, and otherwise not. Everything I read from a young age was treated that way, and that's what we were taught from junior high school on. The was no confusion, uncertainty, or doubt. That was just the rule.

    The fact that several words combine to make a particular known thing together usually doesn't earn them hyphens. Using them as an adjective ("turning them into a part of speech" as ABeaujolais noted [if the part of speech is an adjective, specifically and, I believe, exclusively]) does earn them hyphens.

    I'm not sure when it turned murky, but now you can even see newspapers getting confused about it.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2022

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