Rethinking the rethinking of hyphen rules


Recently, I wrote about some changes to the AP Stylebook’s rules on hyphens. Specifically, I reported that AP is going lighter on them, arguing that if a hyphen doesn’t do anything to make a compound modifier easier to understand, you can often ditch it.

“Use of the hyphen is far from standardized,” the AP social media team tweeted. “It is optional in most cases, a matter of taste, judgment and style sense.”

And tastes, it seems, have shifted toward fewer hyphens. But they haven’t shifted as far as AP thought. Shortly after announcing they were pulling back on hyphens in certain situations, AP got pushback, especially regarding sports terms.

For example, the editors earlier this year decided there should no longer be a hyphen in “first quarter touchdown.” That didn’t go over well.

“Some of you disagreed with our move to delete the hyphen from first-quarter touchdown, third-quarter earnings and other -quarter terms,” the AP Stylebook folks tweeted on Sept. 25. The result is a slight shift in rules, which I write about here.

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