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.