Should I be using a hypen here?

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George Adams
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#1
I'm building a website where we've got sentences like these:

"This network carries data only."

"This is a data-only network."

Now I'm almost sure that the hyphen between "data" and "only" in the second sentence is correct, but
our marketing person insists that I change it to "This is a data only network". Reaching back to my
high school grammar classes, I can't remember any particular rule that specified when a word gets
hypenated (other than at the end of a line), but somehow it just looks *wrong* without the dash. I
guess I'm assuming that "data-only" is a compound adjective modifying "network" in the second
sentence, whereas "data" is a direct object and "only" is an adverb in the first sentence.

So, am I right for the right reasons? Or am I right for the *wrong* reasons? Or am I wrong
altogether?

Thanks to anyone who can clarify what the rules for hyphens are!
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Cybercypher
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"George Adams" <[email protected] m> burbled news:[email protected]:

[q1]> I'm building a website where we've got sentences like these:[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> "This network carries data only."[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> "This is a data-only network."[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> Now I'm almost sure that the hyphen between "data" and "only" in the second sentence is correct,[/q1]
[q1]> but our marketing person insists that I change it to "This is a data only network". Reaching back[/q1]
[q1]> to my high school grammar classes, I can't remember any particular rule that specified when a word[/q1]
[q1]> gets hypenated (other than at the end of a line), but somehow it just looks *wrong* without the[/q1]
[q1]> dash. I guess I'm assuming that "data-only" is a compound adjective modifying "network" in the[/q1]
[q1]> second sentence, whereas "data" is a direct object and "only" is an adverb in the first sentence.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> So, am I right for the right reasons? Or am I right for the *wrong* reasons? Or am I wrong[/q1]
[q1]> altogether?[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> Thanks to anyone who can clarify what the rules for hyphens are![/q1]

You are right for the right reasons. But this is not to say that your marketing person is wrong. You
are both right and both have suggested good, clear sentences.

When using an unfamiliar (to some if not many or most) compund adjective, it is normal to use a
hyphen if there is any possibility of misunderstanding by the reader. A sentence like "The English
teaching profession is in serious trouble" can be understood two ways without a context, but because
this sentence would appear in a paragraph in an article or book about either the teaching profession
in England or the profession of English teaching in one place or another, the reader would probably
not be confused without the hyphen.

I use a hyphen frequently for such compound determiners in medical and technical rewriting, but not
everyone does. I prefer to be safely on the side of clarity.

Your marketing person's insisted-upon change expresses a stylistic preference only; it is neither
more correct nor more clear than the sentence you propose -- to me, at least. It depends on who is
reading the web site. If the readers are not as familiar with the technical vocabulary, your
sentence will be more difficult for the reader to understand than the marketing person's sentence.

I suggest that the style used on the web site falls more within the purview of the marketing
department than the CIS department, so I would yield the point.

--
Franke: "There are no great religions, only great myths and great mistakes." Bodhisattva F. A.
Tchirl. Grammar 1: Internalized rules for the spoken language. Grammar 2: Formal rules for the
written language. Grammar 1 does not equal Grammar 2.
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Gwen Lenker
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#3
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#3
On Tue, 2 Jul 2002 23:48:19 -0400, "George Adams" <[email protected] m> wrote:

[q1]>I'm building a website where we've got sentences like these:[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> "This network carries data only."[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> "This is a data-only network."[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]>Now I'm almost sure that the hyphen between "data" and "only" in the second sentence is correct,[/q1]
[q1]>but our marketing person insists that I change it to "This is a data only network". Reaching back[/q1]
[q1]>to my high school grammar classes, I can't remember any particular rule that specified when a word[/q1]
[q1]>gets hypenated (other than at the end of a line), but somehow it just looks *wrong* without the[/q1]
[q1]>dash. I guess I'm assuming that "data-only" is a compound adjective modifying "network" in the[/q1]
[q1]>second sentence, whereas "data" is a direct object and "only" is an adverb in the first sentence.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]>So, am I right for the right reasons? Or am I right for the *wrong* reasons? Or am I wrong[/q1]
[q1]>altogether?[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]>Thanks to anyone who can clarify what the rules for hyphens are![/q1]

According to the old rules I learned in school, you're right for the right reasons.

However...

More recently, there's been a shift toward eliminating "excess" punctuation marks (including some
that I would rather keep). If the marketing person is telling you that your company's house style is
to forgo hyphens in this type of construction, you may just have to grit your teeth and do it the
marketing person's way.
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John Lawler
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#4
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#4
George Adams <[email protected] m> writes:
[q1]>I'm building a website where we've got sentences like these:[/q1]

[q1]> "This network carries data only."[/q1]

[q1]> "This is a data-only network."[/q1]

[q1]>Now I'm almost sure that the hyphen between "data" and "only" in the second sentence is correct,[/q1]
[q1]>but our marketing person insists that I change it to "This is a data only network". Reaching back[/q1]
[q1]>to my high school grammar classes, I can't remember any particular rule that specified when a word[/q1]
[q1]>gets hypenated (other than at the end of a line), but somehow it just looks *wrong* without the[/q1]
[q1]>dash. I guess I'm assuming that "data-only" is a compound adjective modifying "network" in the[/q1]
[q1]>second sentence, whereas "data" is a direct object and "only" is an adverb in the first sentence.[/q1]

[q1]>So, am I right for the right reasons? Or am I right for the *wrong* reasons? Or am I wrong[/q1]
[q1]>altogether?[/q1]

[q1]>Thanks to anyone who can clarify what the rules for hyphens are![/q1]

The rule in question is sometimes called the "eleven-year-old boy" rule. Note that it's "year"
(singular) and not "years" (plural); that's because normally, pre-nominal modifiers must be singular
(as in "shoe store"). Likewise, they must be monolexical (i.e, one word). I.e,

One-word modifiers precede; modifiers of more than one word follow.

The hyphen is there to indicate that something normally consisting of more than one word is in fact
a one-word pre-nominal modifier. That's all.

This is, in fact, a frequently-asked question (or a frequently asked question -- that one works
either way) on a.u.e. You can see more than you probably wanted to know about hyphens at
http://www.umich.edu/~jlawler/aue/hyphen.html

-John Lawler http://www.umich.edu/~jlawler U of Michigan Linguistics Dept
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Language is the most massive and inclusive art we know, a - Edward Sapir
mountainous and anonymous work of unconscious generations." Language (1921)
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Harvey V
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#5
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#5
I espied that on 03 Jul 2002, "George Adams" <[email protected] m> wrote:

[q1]> I'm building a website where we've got sentences like these:[/q1]

[q1]> "This network carries data only." "This is a data-only network."[/q1]

-snip-

[q1]> I guess I'm assuming that "data-only" is a compound adjective modifying "network" in the second[/q1]
[q1]> sentence, whereas "data" is a direct object and "only" is an adverb in the first sentence.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> So, am I right for the right reasons?[/q1]

You're right, and your reasoning is solid.

--
Cheers, Harvey
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Michael J Hardy
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#6
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#6
George Adams ([email protected] m) wrote:

[q1]> Now I'm almost sure that the hyphen between "data" and "only" in the second sentence is correct,[/q1]
[q1]> but our marketing person insists that I change it to "This is a data only network".[/q1]

Your marketing person is criminally illiterate and should be severely beaten.

(I started realizing the hyphen was disappearing when I saw "How to wire transfer funds." What
are the "transfer funds" that are to be wired?) -- Mike Hardy
0
Skitt
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#7
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#7
Harvey V wrote:
[q1]> "George Adams" wrote:[/q1]

[q2]>> I'm building a website where we've got sentences like these: "This network carries data only."[/q2]
[q2]>> "This is a data-only network."[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> -snip-[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q2]>> I guess I'm assuming that "data-only" is a compound adjective modifying "network" in the second[/q2]
[q2]>> sentence, whereas "data" is a direct object and "only" is an adverb in the first sentence.[/q2]
[q2]>>[/q2]
[q2]>> So, am I right for the right reasons?[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> You're right, and your reasoning is solid.[/q1]

I concur.
--
Skitt (in SF Bay Area) http://www.geocities.com/opus731/ I speak English well -- I learn it from a
book! -- Manuel (Fawlty Towers)
0
Bob Cunningham
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#8
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#8
On Wed, 03 Jul 2002 06:44:59 GMT, g[email protected] (Gwen Lenker) said:

[q1]> On Tue, 2 Jul 2002 23:48:19 -0400, "George Adams" <[email protected] m> wrote:[/q1]

[q2]> >I'm building a website where we've got sentences like these:[/q2]

[q2]> > "This network carries data only."[/q2]

[q2]> > "This is a data-only network."[/q2]

[q2]> >Now I'm almost sure that the hyphen between "data" and "only" in the second sentence is correct,[/q2]
[q2]> >but our marketing person insists that I change it to "This is a data only network". Reaching back[/q2]
[q2]> >to my high school grammar classes, I can't remember any particular rule that specified when a[/q2]
[q2]> >word gets hypenated (other than at the end of a line), but somehow it just looks *wrong* without[/q2]
[q2]> >the dash. I guess I'm assuming that "data-only" is a compound adjective modifying "network" in[/q2]
[q2]> >the second sentence, whereas "data" is a direct object and "only" is an adverb in the first[/q2]
[q2]> >sentence.[/q2]

[q2]> >So, am I right for the right reasons? Or am I right for the *wrong* reasons? Or am I wrong[/q2]
[q2]> >altogether?[/q2]

[q2]> >Thanks to anyone who can clarify what the rules for hyphens are![/q2]

[q1]> According to the old rules I learned in school, you're right for the right reasons.[/q1]

[q1]> However...[/q1]

[q1]> More recently, there's been a shift toward eliminating "excess" punctuation marks (including some[/q1]
[q1]> that I would rather keep). If the marketing person is telling you that your company's house style[/q1]
[q1]> is to forgo hyphens in this type of construction, you may just have to grit your teeth and do it[/q1]
[q1]> the marketing person's way.[/q1]

Hyphenation of compound adjectives should be based on common sense. When the hyphen is used, it's
there to avoid having the reader misinterpret the meaning. The misinterpretation could be due to
what Fowler calls "false scent", or it could be due to ambiguity of the complete statement.

In the case in question, I don't think the reader would even momentarily think the statement "This
is a data only" makes sense by itself, and the full statement "This is a data only network" presents
no ambiguity. Since there is no false scent and no ambiguity, the hyphen can be omitted.

An example where there is false scent is "I lost the large computer manual". The reader may
momentarily perceive that the writer has lost the large computer. However, writing "I lost the
large-computer manual" doesn't help because it states that the writer has lost the manual for a
large computer.

I've long felt that it should be conventional to hyphenate the modified term in a case like that: "I
lost the large computer-manual", but I haven't seen a style guide that endorses that convention.

Lacking that convention, the statement needs to be rewritten as "I lost the large manual for the
computer".

A notable example of ambiguity is a statement that a lady once posted in AUE: "I only went to a
single sex school". Did she mean that she went to only one school to learn about sex, and if so, how
many sex schools does she think most girls go to? Or did she mean that she went only to a school
that had students of one sex? It's reasonably certain that she meant the latter, but to eliminate
the ambiguity she had to write "I only went to a single-sex school".
0
Cybercypher
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Bob Cunningham <[email protected]> burbled news:[email protected]:

[q1]> On Wed, 03 Jul 2002 06:44:59 GMT, [email protected] (Gwen Lenker) said:[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q2]>> On Tue, 2 Jul 2002 23:48:19 -0400, "George Adams" <[email protected] m> wrote:[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q2]>> >I'm building a website where we've got sentences like these:[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q2]>> > "This network carries data only."[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q2]>> > "This is a data-only network."[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q2]>> >Now I'm almost sure that the hyphen between "data" and "only" in the second sentence is correct,[/q2]
[q2]>> >but our marketing person insists that I change it to "This is a data only network". Reaching[/q2]
[q2]>> >back to my high school grammar classes, I can't remember any particular rule that specified when[/q2]
[q2]>> >a word gets hypenated (other than at the end of a line), but somehow it just looks *wrong*[/q2]
[q2]>> >without the dash. I guess I'm assuming that "data-only" is a compound adjective modifying[/q2]
[q2]>> >"network" in the second sentence, whereas "data" is a direct object and "only" is an adverb in[/q2]
[q2]>> >the first sentence.[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q2]>> >So, am I right for the right reasons? Or am I right for the *wrong* reasons? Or am I wrong[/q2]
[q2]>> >altogether?[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q2]>> >Thanks to anyone who can clarify what the rules for hyphens are![/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q2]>> According to the old rules I learned in school, you're right for the right reasons.[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q2]>> However...[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q2]>> More recently, there's been a shift toward eliminating "excess" punctuation marks (including some[/q2]
[q2]>> that I would rather keep). If the marketing person is telling you that your company's house style[/q2]
[q2]>> is to forgo hyphens in this type of construction, you may just have to grit your teeth and do it[/q2]
[q2]>> the marketing person's way.[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> Hyphenation of compound adjectives should be based on common sense. When the hyphen is used, it's[/q1]
[q1]> there to avoid having the reader misinterpret the meaning. The misinterpretation could be due to[/q1]
[q1]> what Fowler calls "false scent", or it could be due to ambiguity of the complete statement.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> In the case in question, I don't think the reader would even momentarily think the statement "This[/q1]
[q1]> is a data only" makes sense by itself, and the full statement "This is a data only network"[/q1]
[q1]> presents no ambiguity. Since there is no false scent and no ambiguity, the hyphen can be omitted.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> An example where there is false scent is "I lost the large computer manual". The reader may[/q1]
[q1]> momentarily perceive that the writer has lost the large computer. However, writing "I lost the[/q1]
[q1]> large-computer manual" doesn't help because it states that the writer has lost the manual for a[/q1]
[q1]> large computer.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> I've long felt that it should be conventional to hyphenate the modified term in a case like that:[/q1]
[q1]> "I lost the large computer-manual", but I haven't seen a style guide that endorses that[/q1]
[q1]> convention.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> Lacking that convention, the statement needs to be rewritten as "I lost the large manual for the[/q1]
[q1]> computer".[/q1]

I just invent little conventions as needed and never feel hamstrung by the lack of a style manual's
imprimatur. I would write "large computer- manual" in an informal document and "the large manual for
the computer" in a formal one.

[q1]> A notable example of ambiguity is a statement that a lady once posted in AUE: "I only went to a[/q1]
[q1]> single sex school". Did she mean that she went to only one school to learn about sex, and if so,[/q1]
[q1]> how many sex schools does she think most girls go to? Or did she mean that she went only to a[/q1]
[q1]> school that had students of one sex? It's reasonably certain that she meant the latter, but to[/q1]
[q1]> eliminate the ambiguity she had to write "I only went to a single-sex school".[/q1]

In which case she could just as easily have been saying that she was the only student enrolled in
that school. The placement of "only" is always a sticking point for me.

--
Franke: "There are no great religions, only great myths and great mistakes." Bodhisattva F. A.
Tchirl. Grammar 1: Internalized rules for the spoken language. Grammar 2: Formal rules for the
written language. Grammar 1 does not equal Grammar 2.
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Britt Nolan
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#10
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#10
Your marketing person is wrong, but he/she is still your marketing person. As a writer at an
advertising agency, my advice to you is that you build the websites and let the marketing people
market. Besides, if they make a mistake, they'll be held accountable. Not you.

Steve Hayes wrote:

[q1]> On Tue, 2 Jul 2002 23:48:19 -0400, "George Adams" <[email protected] m> wrote:[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q2]> >I'm building a website where we've got sentences like these:[/q2]
[q2]> >[/q2]
[q2]> > "This network carries data only."[/q2]
[q2]> >[/q2]
[q2]> > "This is a data-only network."[/q2]
[q2]> >[/q2]
[q2]> >Now I'm almost sure that the hyphen between "data" and "only" in the second sentence is correct,[/q2]
[q2]> >but our marketing person insists that I change it to "This is a data only network".[/q2]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> Your marketing person is wrong.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q1]> --[/q1]
[q1]> Steve Hayes from Tshwane, South Africa http://www.geocities.com/Athens/7734/steve.htm E-mail - see[/q1]
[q1]> web page, or parse: shayes at dunelm full stop org full stop uk[/q1]
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Matti Lamprhey
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"Britt Nolan" <[email protected]> wrote...
[q1]> Your marketing person is wrong, but he/she is still your marketing person. As a writer at an[/q1]
[q1]> advertising agency, my advice to you is that you build the websites and let the marketing people[/q1]
[q1]> market. Besides, if they make a mistake, they'll be held accountable. Not you.[/q1]

Let me guess your nationality -- American?

Matti
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Cybercypher
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#12
Britt Nolan <[email protected]> burbled news:[email protected]:

[q1]> Steve Hayes wrote:[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]
[q2]>> On Tue, 2 Jul 2002 23:48:19 -0400, "George Adams" <[email protected] m> wrote:[/q2]
[q2]>>[/q2]
[q2]>> >I'm building a website where we've got sentences like these:[/q2]
[q2]>> >[/q2]
[q2]>> > "This network carries data only."[/q2]
[q2]>> >[/q2]
[q2]>> > "This is a data-only network."[/q2]
[q2]>> >[/q2]
[q2]>> >Now I'm almost sure that the hyphen between "data" and "only" in the second sentence is correct,[/q2]
[q2]>> >but our marketing person insists that I change it to "This is a data only network".[/q2]
[q2]>>[/q2]
[q2]>> Your marketing person is wrong.[/q2]

[q1]> Your marketing person is wrong, but he/she is still your marketing person. As a writer at an[/q1]
[q1]> advertising agency, my advice to you is that you build the websites and let the marketing people[/q1]
[q1]> market. Besides, if they make a mistake, they'll be held accountable. Not you.[/q1]
[q1]>[/q1]

I don't know why the two of you think that the marketing person is "wrong". If you read the original
post with only one eye, it seems palpably clear that the marketing person is not insisting that the
poster change "data-only network" to "data only network" or *"dataonly network". The marketing
person is asking for a change of style. This is not a matter of right and wrong but of taste and
style, a completely new and grammatically correct sentence in place of the poster's grammatically
correct sentence.

So "Your marketing person is wrong" is an inappropriate response to the question, IMHO.

--
Franke: "There are no great religions, only great myths and great mistakes." Bodhisattva F. A.
Tchirl. Grammar 1: Internalized rules for the spoken language. Grammar 2: Formal rules for the
written language. Grammar 1 does not equal Grammar 2.
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