Monday, January 15, 2007


I'm wondering when are end-of-line hyphens ambiguous?

(D)em hyphens are confusing--specifically, the soft hyphen. In our textbook is reads, "If a hyphen appears only because a line is too short for the whole word, you must mark this 'soft' hyphen for deletion" (24). I'm not sure what the book means by a line being "too short." I thought the rule was only use a soft hypen on a word if a sentence is too long to hold that word; thus, the word would be separated at a suitable syllable cut off. Do they mean too little space in the line? At any rate, if in the manscript there is a soft hyphen, doesn't the type-setter know it's a hypenated word?

In the other source given to use in class it states, "Hyphens appearing when dashes should be used-except double hyphens representing an em dash--should always be marked; otherwise a hyphen may be used between continuing numbers like 15-18 or may confusingly be used to set off parenthetical matter. Whenever it is ambigious or likely to confuse the typesetter an end-of-line hyphen should be underlined or crossed out so that the type-setter will know whether to retain the hyphen in the line or close up the word" (How an Editor Marks a Manuscript). Do you underline to retain the hyphen? I understand all of this is to help the type-setter, but I'm wondering if there is a difference between the font or size of the text on the paper the type-setter is reading and the way it is created in a computer document so that the hyphen would not be needed as the word is inputed? Is that why the soft hyphen should be deleted?

I know it is a small matter, but could someone clear it up for me?

Thank you!

1 comment:

Pat said...

The instructions you are getting at this point are designed to help you learn the ideal form of copyediting. Just as you were taught to form your letters a certain way in kindergarten, you are being taught to form your editing marks a certain way. If you become employed as a copyeditor, you will continue to use the ideal forms for most of your marks. How you make the remaining marks will depend, in part, on such factors as house style (the style of the publishing house employing you) and your relationship with the typesetter (whether or not it is someone you have frequent contact with).

It's more important to know when a hyphen should be retained than when it should be deleted. As you've pointed out, most typesetters will know that most hyphens are to be deleted; i.e., most hyphens are inserted by word-processing programs and are not the result of style or orthography decisions.

In class, we'll talk about (d)em hyphens some more :)