H is for Hyphens
Hyphens have been called lots of names: left-over punctuation marks, “the smallest of the little horizontal line thingies” (The Grammar Cat), and “short and sweet” as compared to the dash which is long and lean (Laurie Rozakis, Complete Idiot’s Guide to Grammar and Style). Laurie Rozakis says that the dash and the hyphen are like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito: Confused so often they are taken for each other.
Sometimes called stacked modifiers, or make-it-up-as-you-go adjectives, these adjectives can be humorous if used sparingly, or annoying if overused. This is a “what-you-may-have-been-wondering-about topic” (Grammar Girl), or maybe not.
They look something like this:
- He has a jump-off-the-page personality.
- We went to a shoot-em-up movie.
- I’m a pretty easy-going, live-and-let-live kinda girl.
Personally, I’m a love-those-hyphenated-compound-adjectives-kind-of-person! Evidently a few other writers like these phrasal adjectives, too. Here are a few samples.
- He is a member of the good-writers-understand-commas crowd.
- …give-me-my-content-through-email people… Bob Dunn For Bloggers By Bloggers
- … a nice, safe, no-one’s-going-argue-with-this-biography. Kristen Lamb
- the best you-can’t-be-there-but-you-can-attend-anyway virtual event… http://www.copyblogger.com/blog/
- I’m-mad-as-hell-and-I’m-not-going-to-take-it-any-more crowd… Judy Dunn, in her former blog Cat’s Eye Writer.
- The uses-too-many-silly-hyphens-for-added-effect woman… Grammar Girl
Of course, these stacked adjectives can get silly if they are overused, but somehow, just once-in-awhile, a stacked adjective does the job. This one, for example: “my good-for-nothing, pot-smoking, boyfriend-of-the-moment…” (Heather Marie Adkins). Now that one just gets right to the point.
The Last Meow
Now to the really important stuff. Here’s how to make cat faces on your very own keyboard. How’s that for a neat cat trick?
=<^ . ^>= Meow for now.
What’s your favorite hyphenated stacked modifier?