Getting pissed off about punctuation feels petty; it’s often something more. I’m having a brochure produced for a real estate convention in Las Vegas, and we’ve gone back and forth with about 10 approval cycles in the past four weeks.
I have no beef with hyphens as long as they make sense. There’s also the city-cousins, the en-dash and em-dash (the latter I went through a phase with, when all my writing was fragmented and required duct tape), and if you can speak to the differences among the three I’m sorry, but you’re a dork.
So I got into a spat with the ad manager who’s getting my brochure produced. I went down and back to Utah in a day, got stuck at a stupid airport in a town you’ve never heard of (St. George), an airport with no restaurant, no bar, only concession machines and boxes of Kleenex on all the tables in the waiting room. The tissues are for people like me, sad there’s nothing to drink.
I get yet another “Final, final approval” email subject line and I see the goddamned hyphen, right there on the cover: Real-estate site opportunities.
OK, it’s technically right because real estate in this case is an adjective but I’m not going to explain that to anyone. I’m going to bet instead there’s no one who’s going to say hey Bill, Real Estate in this case should be hyphenated because it’s describing a noun.
So what’s behind my anger and my unfortunate, crisp email is likely something more. I feel a sense of pride and ownership in this real estate brochure, that describes the needed setbacks and site requirements for drive thrus and kiosks. The hyphen shouts, “look at me, look at me!” But I don’t want that kind of attention. We don’t need to be right, we need to be normal.
I like the ad manager and they did a nice job on the brochure. I was a bit of an ass-hole on e-mail, using my gift of language as a dark art. I owe her a coffee. Any email response that begins “Alrighty then…” suggests you’ve crossed a line.