authors, Editing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Ten mistakes a reader never misses: Misuse of Hyphens (Part 4)

Good writing can sometimes be ignored because of bad editing. That’s because a reader may assume if you did not care enough to correct obvious spelling and grammar errors than you must not have cared about your actual writing. In some cases, that might be true, but it most situations,  it is just a failure on behalf of the author to have the appropriate edit done to the manuscript. So I have tried to point out how easy it is to miss errors through this series of blog posts titled, Ten mistakes readers never miss. This installment will focus on the proper use of hyphens.

Hyphens are used—and must be used—in many ways an average writer isn’t aware of, such as in sentences like “He worked full- and part-time jobs” and “It was a well-planned and -executed move.” There are countless examples of the trouble improper or absent hyphenation causes. These errors, if not corrected by an editor, are a consistent cause of confusion for a reader. The  example below is a very basic one; however, it shows that hyphenating incorrectly or neglecting to insert a hyphen not only makes a sentence unclear; it often inadvertently changes the meaning of the sentence itself. In other words, when authors make these errors, they write something entirely different than what they mean.

Which is correct?

He went to the old book club.

He went to the old-book club.

It depends on what you mean. In the first sentence, he went to a book club that had been around a long time. In the second one, he went to a club for people who collect old books. (Remember this is a very simplified example of the kinds of hyphenation issues that  frequently come up)

The point is you definitely want to make sure a qualified editor reviews your manuscript before you publish. You will not regret it.

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2 thoughts on “Ten mistakes a reader never misses: Misuse of Hyphens (Part 4)

  1. line editing is extremely expensive and if someone is self-publishing this can put the cost way over budget. I suggest having a good writer friend or two read through the manuscript as well as looking on line for any questions that might crop up–for instance the hyphen situation. There are also many good books on grammar and syntax that cost a fraction of what a line editor would charge.

    • keithogorek says:

      I agree there are a number of different ways to accomplish the job of editing, but you want to make sure you use someone that is qualified. Universities are another good place to find a line editor at a reasonable cost. The most important thing is to make sure you have your manuscript line edited at the least.

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