The Hyphen

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.

About pinklightsabre

William Pearse publishes memoir, travel journals, poetry and prose, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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10 Responses to The Hyphen

  1. sarahlangdon says:

    Alrighty then…
    Great post. Yes, I stick my thoughts together with hyphenated duct tape way too often. Bad habit, laziness, and the little demon in me that likes to irk the punctuation police, I suppose.


  2. alesiablogs says:

    St George … Been there when I was on a road trip! We went into the Cracker Barrel and sat right next to this guy with his 3 wives!


  3. Anonymous says:

    Nice rant Bill. Was recently called-out for using two spaces between sentences. I’m a product of the 1980’s and don’t care, it’s my normal.

    Mike O.
    Light-cycle Washington


  4. Rotten Ray says:

    I think we had lunch at a restaurant in St. George once. The portions were quite generous; the food acceptable. Most interesting was the clientele, half of which had holstered pistols – common for Utah apparently.


  5. rossmurray1 says:

    In grammar and punctuation, there’s technically right and then there’s common sense, not to mention common usage. The trick is knowing when to go to bat for which. In this case, that hyphen is a dud.


    • pinklightsabre says:

      Dude, right on. Congrats on your book reading! I hope it was “all that,” as we say.


      • rossmurray1 says:

        Went okay. Very polite and gracious group of 40 or so, which filled the allotted chairs and satisfied the fretful publisher. Sold something like 25 books so I guess it was at very least “mostly that.” Another event closer to home Saturday.


      • pinklightsabre says:

        That is dreamy. Savor it!


  6. I love my hyphen for visual pauses and I might need to get over that, but the “real-estate” thing would bug the hell out of me. Visually, it’s irritating and that’s part of writing as well – how do words and phrases play to the eyes.


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