This is a forum to discuss the gray areas of the English language for which you would not find answers easily in dictionaries or other reference books. You can browse through the latest questions and comments below. If you have a question of your own, please submit it here.
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1. The much talked about question; or The much-talked-about question. If hyphenation is not required, would hyphenation make it wrong, and vice-versa.
Though I’d definitely hyphenate the following: “The much-talked-about-but-never-dealt-with question”. No?
2. I like groceries shopping; or I like groceries-shopping. Same for things like coat(-)checking, floor(-)scrubbing, etc.
How about: The groceries-shopping tedium; coat-checking etiquette; etc. Would it be okay if you don’t hyphenate them?
3. Behaviour is context dependent; or Behaviour is context-dependent. The page is content heavy; or The page is content-heavy.
Likewise, if hyphenation is required, would the lack of hyphenation make it wrong, and vice-versa.
4. The end of school vacation; or The end-of-school vacation. A not so surprising accident; or A not-so-surprising accident.
Again, the same question applies. Especially for the first case, since not hyphenating it would possibly change its meaning: The end of *the* school vacation vs. The vacation that happens at the end of school. Thus, can anyone, without hyphenating it, argue that they mean the latter?
I’m curious about the correct way to punctuate something like the following: David found a note that only had a few words written on it. “I’m too tired to walk.”
Is there a correct way to do this without quotation marks. I’ve seen hyphens used in some instances but that seems incorrect.
On page 89 of “Eats, Shoots & Leaves”, Lynne Truss writes, “I wonder why?” Many people put a question mark at the end of this phrase, but to me it doesn’t seem like a question. Isn’t it a statement? “I wonder” is a statement. “Why” is a question in and of itself. In this context, though, the question mark is not making sense to me.
I am a student working on a thesis in anthropology and I am quoting one of my informants. In his quote, he says “United States Geological Service.” I know that it’s “United States Geological SURVEY,” not “service.” Should I put [sic] after the word “service” in the quote? Is it obnoxious to do that? Is it necessary?