Lose the hyphen!We all have our pet peeves, and mine is the use of unnecessary hyphens. I frequently encounter them when I edit marketing and technical documents for my clients. You’ve seen them, and possibly are even using them in words like e-mail, hyper-text, web-site, and multi-core.

A hyphen is appropriate when a new term is coined to help guide readers in its meaning and pronunciation. Electronic mail became E-mail. However when a term emerges into common usage, unless it would cause confusion, the hyphen is dropped: e-mail is now in common usage so we are finally seeing the hyphen go away and the emergence of the word email (although not fast enough, in my opinion!). The same thing happened when tele-type became teletype and hyper-link became hyperlink.

Multicore is all grown up

Much of my work in the last decade has been with clients in the parallel programming space. These are companies and organizations large and small who are shaping the future of parallel computing. Most of my clients say “multicore” – no hyphen needed. Yet the word is still percolating through the legal and corporate branding departments of some of the larger companies. Consequently it is still listed with the hyphen in some spell-checker dictionaries and corporate style guides (well, at least one that I know of).

Dropping the hyphen indicates that, along with the technology it names, it’s a real word now, not a made-up construct. Dropping the hyphen is the term’s mark of maturation. We need to treat multicore like the mature, prominent, ubiquitous, necessary technology it is. Every time you see a hyphen in “multicore” on a website or document, this says “let someone else lead – we still consider this a newfangled term.”

Are you a writer, product manager, or marketer for a company still using a hyphen in multicore (or email)? I invite you to take up the call and join the battle to lose the hyphen! Especially if your company positions itself as a technology leader, your website and collateral need to officially drop that outdated hyphen and lead the way.

The moral of the story

Show your technology leadership by treating the names of mature technologies as mature terms and drop the hyphens. Talk to your company legal reps, branding cops, and corporate marketing heads. Make it an issue. Pass the word around and get others involved. Make it happen!

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2 Responses to Lose the Hyphen!

  1. adamant says:

    Until just this year, email was only considered correct if capitalized (Email) by the major style guides, and thus, spell check software.

    Often, people will hyphenate words that when left unhyphenated cause their spell check to squiggle the word. I know I have been guilty of that practice on a few occasions when pounding out a quick business correspondence or memo.

  2. Kathleen says:

    Yes, and sadly the hyphen is still in “email” in some of the guides… So those of us in the tech-writing trenches must be the trailblazers when we can. I guess I need to bring my campaign to the folks minding the Microsoft Word spell-check dictionary.

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