hyphenation in technical texts
Thread poster: xxxLia Fail
xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:40
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 31, 2004

In other words, to hypenate or not to hyphenate?

Hyphenation in standard English is fairly; basically a 'new' compound word starts out as either hyphenated or is simply written as two words, and then once usage becomes widespread, is often written as simply one word. So three acceptable ways of spelling may co-exist, until one finally becomes the 'preferred' spelling.

In technical texts, however, compound words are generally complex, often consisting of a number of adjectives + nouns, and sometimes hyphenation is necessary to clarify meaning. On the other hand, for technical experts, maybe it's not necessary to clarify meaning......

Are there any guidelines, even general ones, for engineering and electronics in general?

Is there any authority that actually gives guidelines on spelling for complex technical compound words? Or is it simply a free-for-all?

Better if information is available online, but if there is a hard-copy publication, then I would also like to know about it.

TIA:-)





[Edited at 2004-08-31 20:05]


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Suzanne Blangsted  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:40
Danish to English
+ ...
to hyphenate or not - that is the question. Aug 31, 2004

There are several books on the market. I have two that I used at Western Washington University, USA, back in the early 1990s (and still refer to).

1. Science and Technical Writing - a manual of style. ISBN number is 0-8050-1831-X

2. Technical Writing - a reader-centered approach. ISBN number is 0-15-501185-5.

These might help you, if you are looking for US English.


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RHELLER
United States
Local time: 13:40
French to English
+ ...
agree that high-tech words can get confusing Sep 1, 2004

I use hyphenated adjectives to make certain sentences easier to understand. Many high-tech word combinations are new so you may not find them in books. Example: multi-networked is easier than multinetworked. However, if there are three adjectives which apply equally to a noun, it's probably best just to use commas.

If you propose a specific question, we can try and work through it together.

google under "hyphenation" and you will find an enormous amount of resources.

http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~brians/errors/hyphenation.html

The Chicago Manual of Style contains a huge chart listing various sorts of phrases that are or are not to be hyphenated. Consult such a reference source for a thorough-going account of this matter, but you may be able to get by with a few basic rules. An adverb/adjective combination in which the adverb ends in “-LY” is never hyphenated: “His necktie reflected his generally grotesque taste.” Other sorts of adverbs are followed by a hyphen when combined with an adjective: “His long-suffering wife finally snapped and fed it through the office shredder.” The point here is that “long” modifies “suffering,” not “wife.” When both words modify the same noun, they are not hyphenated. A “light-green suitcase” is pale in color, but a “light green suitcase” is not heavy. In the latter example “light” and “green” both modify “suitcase,” so no hyphen is used.

[Edited at 2004-09-01 01:48]


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 22:40
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
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Its really confusing Sep 1, 2004

When English technical writers just stack words after another without a clue as to what belongs together, we translators are often at loss, look at Kudoz!
It is very unfortunate, that English has become the leading technical and scientific language. German, French or Russian were so much more suitable for this role because of their clearer grammatical structures.
More hyphens please!


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:40
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thanks all for the refs Sep 1, 2004

Rita Heller wrote:

“His long-suffering wife finally snapped and fed it through the office shredder.” The point here is that “long” modifies “suffering,” not “wife.” When both words modify the same noun, they are not hyphenated. A “light-green suitcase” is pale in color, but a “light green suitcase” is not heavy. In the latter example “light” and “green” both modify “suitcase,” so no hyphen is used.



I will check out Chicago link today.

What do you think of high performance and low intertia?

a high performance car

a low inertia mass

With/without hyphens?


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Barbara Thomas
United States
Local time: 15:40
Spanish to English
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Online style manuals Sep 1, 2004

Ailish Maher wrote:

...

Are there any guidelines, even general ones, for engineering and electronics in general?

Is there any authority that actually gives guidelines on spelling for complex technical compound words? Or is it simply a free-for-all?

Better if information is available online, but if there is a hard-copy publication, then I would also like to know about it.

TIA:-)

[Edited at 2004-08-31 20:05]


Ailish,

You can find online style manuals for any academic discipline easily by searching for "style manual" and your discipline. (http://standards.ieee.org/guides/style/)

Another good search term is "nomenclature" which will usually get you to official sites dedicated to devising the rules for naming things.

Official organizations like the European Union, UN, WHO, FDA, etc. offer a wealth of linguistic recommendations.

Finally, thesauri generally use the most accepted and correct terms and are particularly useful for sorting out synonyms to help you select the one most widely accepted.

Best regards, Barbara


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RHELLER
United States
Local time: 13:40
French to English
+ ...
compound adjectives Sep 1, 2004

Hi Ailish!

I am not an expert, this is just my opinion.

a high performance car
a low inertia mass

I think high-performance is a compound adjective, describing a highly-performing car. One often hears low-performance vehicle.
I would use the same logic with low-inertia mass; describing the level of inertia

----------------More examples-------------------
Use the hyphen in compound adjectives, e.g.

hot-blooded argument
green-eyed monster
best-equipped plant
long-awaited results
above-mentioned criteria

Her fifteen-minute presentation proved decisive to the outcome of the case.


http://149.156.84.161/year1/writing/goldrule.htm


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Richard Benham  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:40
German to English
+ ...
General rule.... Jan 15, 2005

Hyphenation seems to be going out of fashion, but it is vitally necessary in many contexts, just as it is vitally necessary to avoid it where it is not appropriate.

As Rita points out, it is necessary to use hyphens with compound adjectives, or, perhaps more precisely, non-adjectival expressions which are used as adjectives.

For example: "Mr XYZ is a left-wing member of the Mugwumpian Party." (Compare: "Mr XYZ is a member of the left wing [no hyphen] of the Mugwumpian Party.") Since the nominal expression "left wing" is being used as an adjective in the first sentence, it should be hyphenated.

Leaving hyphens out can lead to ambiguity, or, more accurately, sentences that are just plain wrong. A recent example on KudoZ was "wine containing cocktail". WINE, containing COCKTAIL? This does not make any sense. But with the hyphen in the right place, "wine-containing cocktail", it becomes clear that the cocktail contains wine, and not vice versa.

There are quite a few issues with hyphens, such as "a recently published book" vs "a recently-published book" (the tide seems to have turned in favour of the former), and what to do with expressions which seem to require multiple hyphens, e.g. "a non-wine-containing cocktail", a "non-wine containing cocktail" (most popular but logically indefensible) "a non wine-containing cocktail",...? The obvious solution, to the technically-minded, is "non-(wine-containing) cocktail", but you won't get that past too many editors. (Such bracketing is often used in chemistry, however, in names of compounds.)

To my mind "non-wine-containing cocktail" is ambiguous: is it a non-wine which contains cocktail, or a cocktail which contains no wine? "Non-wine containing cocktail" is very obviously, if we break it down logically, a non-wine which contains cocktail. Last, and not least, "non wine-containing cocktail" does not admit of ambiguous interpretation, but it violates the general rule that "non" is a prefix which is hyphenated to the word it negates.

My recommendation would be to use hyphens for multi-word non-adjectival expressions being used as adjectives, form your own opinion about "recently(-)published", "well-covered", etc. (used as adjectives, not parts of verbs, where there is no need to hyphenate), and try to rephrase in cases where multi-level hyphenation would be required, e.g. "cocktail not containing wine".


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RHELLER
United States
Local time: 13:40
French to English
+ ...
non-alcoholic cocktails - for the kids :-) Jan 15, 2005

[quote]Richard Benham wrote:

Leaving hyphens out can lead to ambiguity, or, more accurately, sentences that are just plain wrong. A recent example on KudoZ was "wine containing cocktail". WINE, containing COCKTAIL? This does not make any sense. But with the hyphen in the right place, "wine-containing cocktail", it becomes clear that the cocktail contains wine, and not vice versa.

To my mind "non-wine-containing cocktail" is ambiguous: is it a non-wine which contains cocktail, or a cocktail which contains no wine?
---------------------------------------------------------
I agree with you Richard. The ambiguity of some of the phrasing, especially in higly-technical texts, is a big problem for non-natives, translating into their languages.

First, they need to distinguish noun from adjective. As you say, these are typically adjectives. However, sometimes they are compound words, like mother-in-law. That's an easy one. How about a hole-in-one? Definitely a noun.

http://cctc2.commnet.edu/grammar/compounds.htm

Problematic terms may be submitted to the Eng-Eng kudoz section. Not all speakers of English will agree, but it still helps for clarification purposes.


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sundew
Local time: 21:40
English to Swedish
+ ...
General rule - conclusions? Jul 21, 2006

Richard Benham wrote:

My recommendation would be to use hyphens for multi-word non-adjectival expressions being used as adjectives, form your own opinion about "recently(-)published", "well-covered", etc. (used as adjectives, not parts of verbs, where there is no need to hyphenate), and try to rephrase in cases where multi-level hyphenation would be required, e.g. "cocktail not containing wine".


Maybe I'm just being dense, but what does that conclusion mean for the coctail example? Was "non-wine-containg coctail" the winner after all? I happen to be pondering a similar example right now: Does one write "ultra-low-temperature physics", or "ultra-low temperature physics" or perhaps simply "ultra low temperature physics"? Also, is the hyphenation different in Brittish English, compared to American or Australian English? I need to use this term in Brittish English.


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