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This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
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Thursday, July 14, 2011

A cure for Anal Ysis

Well, I know all you Word Lady fans have just been dying for another punctuation blog post ever since I wrote about commas, so here it is: my big punctuation pet peeve: badly used hyphens when breaking words at the end of a line. Many of you are thinking, "But my computer does that for me!" Ha! If you trust your computer, you will end up with some very user-unfriendly word breaks. I have a little collection of them; please feel free to let me know about others you have come across.
Sometimes even a technically correct word break, which follows the syllabication of the word, ends up leading the poor reader astray.

This sounds like a nasty affliction:  anal-

There's the to-and-fro-ing anti-pro-

the mythical leg-

But there are others where the computer obviously has no clue where the syllables are in English:


(sounds like some kind of Chinese dish served in a cafeteria)


(possibly something like Sino-ctrination?)


(God forbid that Loose Ned should contract Anal Ysis!)

In fact, some newspapers break off the past tense -ed even on one-syllable words, like hop-

(It gives a very High Anglican feel to reading the newspaper!)

There is the very frequent re-

and its cousin, which I just saw this week: rear-

Save Loose Ned from Anal Ysis and from being rear rested! Don't let your computer do your word breaks for you.

For more on hyphenation, visit this post and this one.

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  1. The-

    The classic, always memorable example of why your computer is not always right.

  2. Brilliant example, Deb. Thanks for posting!

    1. My favorite. My title is Cognition The rapist. Describes how you feel when your brain has done you in. :)

  3. Harking back to the days as a copy editor and writer (by candlelight, I seem to remember), there were good reasons for not hyphenatintg a word at the end of a line: not only did you avoid amusing or confusing readers but, most importantly, you didn't have to know the rules of hyphenation.

  4. as good a reason as any, Charlie! :)

  5. My favourite was always mans-
    Al R, a retired copy editor

  6. How about wee-


About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.