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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Punctuation Station or Questions and Answers on Writing

Hyphen [-]. and PHRASAL ADJECTIVES. “If two or more consecutive words make sense only when understood together as an adjective modifying a noun that follows, those words (excusing the noun) should be hyphenated. Thus, you hyphenate special-interest money, but only because money is part of the phrase; if you were referring to this or that special interest, a hyphen would be wrong.” (Bryan A. Garner, Garner’s Modern American Usage. Oxford University Press. 2003. 657.)

Q: How does this rule apply to the phrase “seventeen year old boys”?

A: The hyphens would be placed thusly: “seventeen-year-old boys.”

Q: What if I was talking about seventeen boys who were each a year old? Because that’s what I was talking about.

A: I see. The phrase would then be “seventeen year-old boys.”

Q: Got it.

A: Good. I’m glad.

Q: How does this rule apply to the phrase “big booty ho”?

A: Since you’re describing a ho with a big booty, it would be “big-booty ho.”

Q: What if I’m describing a booty ho who is of a larger size?

A: I challenge you to show me a situation where this occurs.

Q: Come on, seriously, it’s for school.

A: In the case of a booty ho who is of a larger size, you might simply choose to recast the sentence. For example, if the sentence was “She was a big booty ho,” you might instead write “She was big. And she was a booty ho.” Alternatively, you could choose an adjective that was less prone to fall into the colloquialism “big-booty ho,” as in: “She was a voluptuous booty ho.”

Q: That seems kind of unnatural.

A: Who’s the expert here?

Q: In this situation? Uncle Luke, I guess.

A: If you have a question about grammar or usage, please feel free to ask this guy.