Apparently “freaked-out journalists” is also hyphenated: AP retools its policy on compound modifiers once again

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one pondering the quagmire that was AP’s decision on hyphenation lately.

As much as I’d like to think I had an impact, I’m not delusional enough to think anyone of journalistic import reads this blog. I’m guessing in this case, the quantity of complaints and freak outs had them reconsider their ideas on “first-quarter touchdown” and other hyphenations.

Here’s a brief update on AP’s position on compound modifiers and the use of hyphens, via Poynter:

“Thanks to input from our users, we are reversing our decision to delete the hyphen from ‘first-quarter touchdown’ and ‘third-quarter earnings,’” AP Stylebook Editor Paula Froke told Poynter in an email. “We agree that, for instance, ‘first-half run’ should be hyphenated. So to conform, we are returning the hyphen to the ‘-quarter’ phrases.”

In a March Stylebook update, Froke said, the AP noted the difference between commonly recognized noun phrases and compound modifiers in phrases. Her example: “Chocolate chip cookie” doesn’t need a hyphen. “French-speaking people” does.

“To correct one misperception: The updates we announced in March did not call for fewer hyphens or no hyphens in compound modifiers,” Froke said.

I could argue with that last point, but the bigger issue is that AP did the smart thing: It listened to its readers and users and made a point of acknowledging their concerns. The AP approach is the perfect example of how to understand one’s audience’s needs and to meet them, as opposed to arrogantly refusing on the grounds of being “in charge.”

Kudos to AP on this one.


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