Thursday, February 28, 2008

That Monica-Lewinsky scandal

Speak of the devil and he will surely park his SUV in front of your driveway. Here's an alarming bit of hed punctuation by the folks who insist on hyphenating "million" and "billion" compounds:

Court may reduce Exxon-Valdez damages

Ack! The story's been touched by human hands, obviously, because Freep style has invaded the lede:
The U.S. Supreme Court seemed inclined Wednesday to reduce the $2.5-billion award of punitive damages to victims of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.

But did it occur to nobody that proper names are a very special case of compound modifier and don't need to be hyphenated to make their unity clear? That anybody who would write "Exxon-Valdez damages" is the sort of person who would get the Monica-Lewinsky scandal mixed up with the Sacco-Vanzetti affair?

Please. Read text before following "rules." Edit for meaning. Have clue.

The when-in-doubt-hyphenate cousins down the road in Columbus commit a different sort of fumble here, but it still reflects blind fear of the stylebook, rather than reasoned use of the tools at hand:

You can read "heart transplant" as a compound if you want, I suppose. Or you can read it as a set of cumulative modifier. Either way, what exactly is the worst-case risk of confusion we've wasted our editing time on preventing?



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