SC Lawyer, Nov. 2003, #6. The Scrivener November 2003 Hyphens and dashes, part 2.

AuthorBy Scott Mo\xEFse

South Carolina Lawyer


SC Lawyer, Nov. 2003, #6.

The Scrivener November 2003 Hyphens and dashes, part 2

South Carolina LawyerNovember. 2003The Scrivener November 2003 Hyphens and dashes, part 2By Scott MoïseHyphens and dashes look similar, but serve opposite functions. A California district court, however, seemed to think that hyphens and dashes are interchangeable. In Miss Universe, Inc. v. Flesher, 433 F. Supp. 271 (C.D. Cal. 1977), the judge issued an injunction against a beauty pageant using the title "Miss Nude U.S.A." because it was too easily confused with the trademark "Miss U.S.A." The district court, though, allowed the defendant to use the title "Miss Nude-U.S.A." and gave it the option to use either a hyphen or a dash in the title. The Ninth Circuit reversed on the basis that hyphens and dashes cannot be interchanged. 605 F.2d 1130 (9th Cir. 1979). Well, actually, the appellate court reversed the decision because simply adding a hyphen to "Miss Nude-U.S.A." did not eliminate confusion with "Miss U.S.A." The district court also erred in assuming that the two punctuation marks served the same function.

  1. Hyphens with Compound Verbs

    This situation is difficult because no hard-and-fast rule exists. Some compound verbs are hyphenated; some are separated only by a space; some are written solid. To be sure whether a compound verb should be hyphenated, refer to the dictionary, but even dictionaries may differ.

    * Our investigator wanted to double-track her steps to ensure she missed nothing.

    * The alleged design flaw was the manufacturer's failure to cold-roll the steel rods.

    * Daddy constantly told us to cut off the lights.

    * Pee Wee Gaskins' role was to mastermind the crime spree.

  2. Hyphens with Compound Nouns

    As with compound verbs, no set rule exists for determining when a compound noun is hyphenated. Compound nouns can be written solid, with a space, or with a hyphen.

    * Mason wrote the company's bylaws and payrolls.

    * After work, Cynthia went to the post office to mail our discovery responses and then to the day care to pick up her children.

    * Lawyers are portrayed unfairly as money-grabbers and ambulance-chasers.

    The following general rules will help guide you as to when to hyphenate compound nouns, but, again, these are not hard-and-fast rules.

    (1) Hyphenate when the compound noun has no noun as one of its elements.

    * Bracey threw the trial team into a panic by innocently taking a...

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