correct spelling?

Gary W. Swearingen underway at
Wed Oct 15 20:37:20 UTC 2003

Josef El-Rayes <j.el-rayes at> writes:

> as i did not find correct spelling for these two words, in our word list
> and on the o'reilly word list, i ask if somebody could tell me whether
> it is:
> 	o operating system or operating-system
> 	o core team or core-team

I'm glad you asked that.  Many geeks seem to just ignore the existence
of hyphens.  If schools bother to teach about hyphenation rules, they
probably do little more than mention them, so hyphens are often
omitted even in formal writing by people who write for a living.  I
suspect that are increasingly making a feature of their bug by
teaching that hyphens are obsolete.  But it makes for some awkward
(and annoying) reading, IMO.

I must admit that I'm unable to state any hyphenation rules, but the
general principle is to use hyphens to help readers' brains group
words properly while reading quickly.  (Otherwise, the brain tends to
stumble to make sense of nonsensical grouping.) Examples:

  Language-based printers, such as PostScript printers...
    -- If it was "Language based printers, ...", the brain
       can stop and wonder what a "based printer" is, because
       English tends to add adjectives from right to left, as
       in "long coal train" and not "coal long train".)

   The most-often-seen omission is the one in "*-based".
    -- I omitted the second hyphen in my first draft, FWIW.

  The FreeBSD operating system is good.
     -- Normal adjective rules apply.

  The operating-system software is good.
     -- To help the reader not read this as "The operating
        system-software is good.

  Having operating system-software is better than having
  non-operating system-software.
     -- I don't know if these hyphens "should" be there or not,
     but I think they help and I'd use them.

Treat "core team" (and "open source" and etc.) similarly.  I suppose
that there are words that are always hypenated, but I can't think of
any at the moment.

I see one example in the Handbook where a commonly-hyphenated phrase
is used in a situation where it probably should not be hyphenated: on it full-time, ...

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