Monday, July 24, 2006

Well, well, well-

A fellow copyeditor (one word, please) wrote to me a few minutes ago to point something out in my own writing that I was not conscious of. She noted that I had written about “well written and well edited texts from earlier centuries” and inquired as to why I had not hyphenated well written and well edited.

I replied:
It appears to be a habit I picked up along the way and misattributed to The Chicago Manual of Style. On looking it up just now, it seems that Chicago still wants those phrases to be hyphenated. I personally think, as someone posted a few weeks ago, that you have a lifetime quota of hyphens and should use them only when necessary. I don’t find any potential for ambiguity with “well” phrases, and so I’ve taken to treating them like “-ly” phrases—keeping them open except under conditions of potential ambiguity. But clearly I’m well out in front of Chicago on the point and perhaps I should reconsider.
So I’m reconsidering. I haven’t changed my mind yet, but I’m willing to listen to what others have to say. Feel free to comment.

Even editors need editors.


Anonymous said...

I can't see why people are so eager to do away with hyphens. Commas catch the eye and interrupt the inner voice, so I think we're right to treat them as "guilty until proven innocent" and use them more sparingly. A possibly superfluous hyphen doesn't slow the eye as much as a superfluous comma; 'well-written' and 'well written' read about the same to me. I suggest you heed your eagle-eyed correspondent's well-chosen words ;^)

Anonymous said...

I think it's very funny that copy editors can't agree on whether their own title is an open or closed compound. Or perhaps it's just the reference book publishers who can't get it together. It's closed in CMS but open in Web 11, so when I'm off the clock I tend to spell it "copy editor," but when I'm proofreading or--heaven forfend!--copyediting, I go with "copyeditor." Perverse.