Saturday, October 12, 2013

Bad Hyphens, Part 2

It's not the first time I've written about bad hyphens, but this time I have pictures to prove they're real.

Almost all of the misplaced hyphens misdivide compound word like "homeowner," an example that both of my local papers have managed to screw up (Star Tribune above, Pioneer Press below):

Who would have realized Michele Bachmann even knew how to use vainglory in a sentence?

While not an incorrect break, breaking a compound like "vainglory" within one of the component words is not recommended for readability. (From the Star Tribune.)

The Pioneer Press stuck an extra "r" into "overall" and then blew the hyphen too:

Neologisms and extra-long business names confound the hyphenation engines the most, not surprisingly. Here, a "rent your flat to tourists" business has its name transformed into something unreadable by the Star Tribune:

And here the Strib adds a bit of incomprehensibility to a letter writer's point:

Then there was this story about typosquatters -- people who purposely buy website domain names that are off by a letter or two, hoping for spelling-impaired visitors:

The Strib's hyphen makes it sound like an Aztec ritual, or maybe something to do with Koyaanisqatsi.

Newspapers are the main place to find bad hyphens, since they're always on a deadline, and especially in these days of the newspaper diaspora, they don't dedicate many resources to proofreading. But books can occasionally turn up their own bad hyphens. This one is from Tom Reiss's Pulitzer Prize winner, The Black Count:

While this break is technically correct, the syllable "sug" on its own reads as rhyming with "jug," and leaving the complete word "arcane" on a line by itself brings other things to mind. It stopped me in my tracks while reading, obviously, or I wouldn't have taken a picture of it. Plus, the word spacing on the first line looks like it may have allowed them to squeeze the "ar" in "sugar" onto the previous line if they had tried.

I'll end with a pair of Star Tribune "Have You Heard?" blocks. The short line length in this format results in a lot of hyphenated words:

Popemo, meet escat.

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