Showing posts with label hyphens. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hyphens. Show all posts

Choose Hyphens for Those Terrible, Awful, Tech Words


So What About Choosing Hyphens for Those Terrible, Awful, Tech Words? 

My Editing Story About When to Choose a Hyphen

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Author of The Frugal Editor, Third Edition

You know that rule we authors are told to follow assiduously? The one that is supposed to make things easy for formatting or editing a document or book when dictionaries can’t decide which spelling is preferred and the trusted The Chicago Manual of Style doesn’t seem to take a strong stand either? The one that goes something like, “Be sure the choice you make stays the same throughout the book?”

Before I even start, you my reader, should probably know I usually welcome that kind of advice. As the author of multi award-winning The Frugal Editor (now in its 3rd edition!), I like giving advice that costs authors as little out-of-pocket expense and is also frugal with time. After all, it is said, “Time is money.” Thus the general impetus of that book is how-do-the-editing-yourself when you absolutely can’t afford an editor for your work-in-progress or—more often—when it is highly unlikely an author would consider an editor for all the promotional material they must write like media releases, query letters, website copy, etc. Mind you, I don’t suggest they shouldn’t get another pair of eyes on those documents. I’m just saying we all know we probably won’t.

So, this is the story of how my publisher and I (whom I dearly love), didn’t…er, agree. You see he is not only a publisher, he’s a tech guy. And when these doubtful choices come up, he usually just finds out which choice is most often used in recent times. It frugal of time, right? It required just one search. One go-to rule works all the time—make that most of the time. And it seemed like a good enough approach to me when we came up against what to do with ebook/Ebook/eBook/e-book/E-book/e-books. It wasn’t as easy as the Shakespearian idea that might be rephrased as “Ahhhh, to hyphenate, or not to hyphenate!” And the web’s “eBook” preference didn’t cut it. Here’s why:

The felt fine to me. It is short. It clarifies. It looks good. If the tech world likes it, I can learn to like it. So, I’m using my find function to edit all the places I had typed “e-books” so I replace it with our new agreed-upon choice, “eBook.” That’s when I run across a subtitle in my manuscript where the first letter in nouns must be capitalized. Horrors! “EBook?” Really? Two caps? It even looks like a typo to me. I considered changing the title so I didn’t have to use the word, but that didn’t work out too well, either. Nor did breaking the guidelines for caps in titles. 

That was when I started looking for some reasons why just a simple “e-book” would be the best choice simply because it is easy enough to capitalize. And doesn’t it make sense to keep it within the same family as general choices for words like “e-mail” and “e-publishing” already seem to be decided to say nothing of how well English has already adapted pretty well to its capitalization rules. 

And just so you know, Word’s autocorrect gives words like “epublishing” and “ebook” a very angry red squiggle!

And then I received a newsletter from the renowned Jim Cox, chief editor at Midwest Book Review who appeared to be following the same “rule” as my publisher. So, I wrote a note to him and he—also being tolerant of time, money and ease in general—wrote back with: 


“Dear Carolyn:


“I've been giving the matter further thought and the only conclusion I could come to is that digital publishing is still so new that a consensus as to how our digital books should be referred to (E-Book, Ebook, eBook, ebook, etc.) simply has not been achieved so that any and all of these forms can be used without embarrassment.


“Just my two cents worth—"

That seems reasonable to me, so naturally as long as I am the one that bears the title of “editor,” and no one with greater or lesser titles than that in the arena of linguistics or grammar has come up with a better way to honor the much-respected rules for capital letters, I stuck with e-book, ebooks, E-book, and E-books. And I decided to always let my publisher a-la-digital genius have the last word on anything else that has to do with tech! Ahem.

So, where do you stand? Leave a comment. Weigh in. Read my book and see how well it works. Nobody has written any hate-mail to me yet telling me I am wrong. Ha!

About Today’s Writers on the Move Contributor

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of the multi award-winning series of HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers including USA Book News’ winner for The Frugal Book Promoter. An instructor for UCLA Extension's renowned Writers Program for nearly a decade, she believes in entering (and winning!) contests and anthologies as an excellent way to separate our writing from the hundreds of thousands of books that get published each year. Two of her favorite awards are Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment given by members of the California Legislature and “Women Who Make Life Happen,” given by the Pasadena Weekly newspaper. She is also an award-winning poet and novelist, and she loves passing along the tricks of the trade she learned from marketing those so-called hard-to-promote genres. Learn more on her website at Let Amazon notify you when she publishes new books (or new editions!) by following her Amazon profile page at Her The Frugal Editor is now in its third edition from Modern History Press and sorrowfully ending its official release year. Let it help you edit your 2024 work-in-process and let this be the best year ever for your writing career.


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