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Published · 1-minute read

Hyphenation Rules Are Confusing

Hyphenation rules don’t work well for nested hyphenation groupings.

Let’s look at a couple of unproblematic cases first:
‘author copy’ needs no hyphen.
‘author-copy order’ needs a hyphen to group ‘author’ and ‘copy’. So far so good.

Here’s where it get’s problematic:
‘author-copy-order receipt’ is a mess. It should be ‘author=copy-order receipt’ so you can see the nested groupings. ‘author’ and ‘copy’ belong together more tightly than ‘author’ and ‘order’, and the equal sign (a ‘double hyphen’ of sorts) can be used to indicate such tighter bindings.

Contrast that last example with ‘artificial-general-intelligence researcher’. There’s no nested grouping in the latter yet the hyphenation is the same. That’s confusing.

For deeply nested groupings the number of bars should increase so you can always identify groupings without ambiguity: ‘author≡copy=order-receipt printout’. It’s doubtful you’d ever need more than three bars to hyphenate.

Nested groupings could occur in the middle as well, and in more than one place:

‘well=made-order=receipt printout’. You may think this example is the same as ‘well-made order-receipt printout’ using current hyphenation rules but it isn’t because ‘well-made’ is supposed to qualify ‘order-receipt’, not ‘printout’.


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‘Anti-vacine=mandate demonstrations’ is another example of nested groupings that occur in the middle.

#149 · dennis (verified commenter) ·

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