Sunday, October 3, 2010

Exercise F

Some of the answers in the answer key to exercise F seem vague to me.

For example, (lines 13, 14, and 15)

"A company that produces fewer than eight or ten titles a year is most likely a two- or-three-person operation,..."

The answer key for 14-15 indicates that a

" A Suspended compound: " two- or three-person operation." Make sure the hyphens and word spaces are indicated correctly."

Other examples included are:

The fourteen- and fifteen-year-old students attended.
Steel-plated or -cased vaults were used.

I feel like the correct answer should be a two-or-three person operation. The explanation doesn't clarify the answer to me. When I look up hyphenated compounds the only explanation that I can find says, "if it is not listed in the dictionary then there is no hyphen." There has to be a better explanation. I find this confusing.

Also, I feel unclear about lines 27- 28,

"books, computer books, gardening books, cook- books, and every stripe of how-to-books."

The answer key for line 28 states that

"Dictionaries show a hyphen in the adjective how-to, but there's no hyphen between the adjective how-to and the noun book.

and then changes "how-to-books" to "how-to book".

I am confused about the placement of the hyphens, and why the the plural form of book becomes singular in the answer key.


Chad said...

Hey, Cindy! I'll try my hand at responding to a couple of your concerns.

Let's start with the "two- or three-person" thing. I think the reason it's not "two-or-three person operation" is that it isn't a "person" operation, but is instead either a "two-person" operation or a "three-person" operation. It could be either one. So, since this is the case, we write it as such: "a two- or three-person" operation. I can understand why that may seem confusing--it's mainly because of the coordinating conjunction "or" interrupting. The idea is that what is intended to appear after that first hyphen (after "two-") is the word that appears after the second hyphen (after "three-"), which happens to be "person." If the author wanted to take up more space, he or she could've written, "a two-person or three-person operation," but it's more efficient to say, "a two- or three-person operation."

In the case of "fourteen-year-old" and "fifteen-year-old," it's just three words forming a single adjective now instead of two.

And as for "steel-plated" and "-cased," the thing I mnetioned above is just reversed. What is intended to appear before the second hyphen (before "-cased") is the word that appears before the first hyphen (before "-plated"), which is "steel." In other words, the author is saying, "steel-plated or steel-cased vaults," but is saving space.

Now, as for the "how-to book" thing, "how" and "to" are simply functioning together as one hyphenated adjective for the noun "book." "How-to" modifies "book" just other hyphenated adjectives modify other nouns. As to whether or not the noun "book" should be plural or singular, I think I may know why it's to be singular. "Stripe" is just a synonym for "type" or "kind" or "sort," and when we express constructions like this, we typically don't pluralize the noun at the end. For example, to my knowledge, we don't usually say, "I own every type of video game" or "my mom uses every kind of tool."

Anyway, this is just my lame, rushed attempt at trying to explain why this is the case. :) Hope this clears some things up.

Chad said...

I regret not adding simply that the repeated word in both hyphenated adjectives ("person" in the first instance and "cased in the second instance) is simply omitted for the sake of efficiency. That might've made things a tad clearer in my explanation above. :)

Cindy said...

Thanks Chad- I really appreciate your explanation.