by Jennie Ruby
I cannot blame my FrameMaker colleague Barb Binder for lumping hyphens in with religion and politics as topics not to be touched on in the classroom. But it is my job not only to touch on the topic of hyphens, but to explain what can be explained and then moderate the ensuing battles.
Here is one aspect of the hyphenation question that can be explained and that can help resolve many a hyphen-related battle. In the dictionary you find that English has three types of compound words: permanently hyphenated, permanently open, and permanently closed. Here are some random examples:
Permanently hyphenated: walkie-talkie, double-stop, double-team, demand-side, closed-captioned, close-cropped, self-made
Permanently open: high school, early bird, disaster area, elm bark beetle, cloud forest, orange pekoe
Permanently closed: database, toothpaste, paintbrush, orangewood, powerhouse, seagull
Just as "Let's Google it" ends up solving a lot of arguments about facts, the dictionary can solve a lot of arguments about hyphens.
So Barb--and other fearers of hyphen discussions--your first line of defense in a hyphenation battle is m-w.com, to find a definite answer on many hyphenation questions. And Merriam-Webster is a permanently hyphenated compound word.
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