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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How to abuse a foreign language with a simple comma, starting with Latin

Large organizations develop their own dialects. One dialect that existed at my previous employer, Adobe, was the use of a hyphen to connect words within Latin phrases. The most common instance of this was ad hoc, which sprung up in hyphenated form, ad-hoc, in many presentations. This problem is more widespread than just one company. If you would like to see this in a Google search, try these searches for "ad-hoc", "ad-hoc mode" or '"ad-hoc"'. [To Adobe's credit, most of the hyphenated use of ad hoc is in the forums, where editorial correctness is not the main issue.] You can see that "everyone is doing it," but, as my mother used to say, that doesn't make it right. The basic rule is that foreign language phrases, such as those below, are used without hyphens. See Grammatically Correct in Google Books for more detail on this. But it makes it clear that one should "note in particular that Latin phrases never take hyphens." The Chicago Manual of Style suggests that "foreign words and phrases familiar to most readers and listed in Webster's should appear in roman (not italics) if used in an English context." The option to hyphen the words does not appear in the manual at all.

A short list of these common Latin phrases are

Wikipedia has a long categorical list of Latin phrases in case you are curious.

Let's respect foreign languages and use their phrases correctly.


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At June 24, 2020 at 7:51 PM , Blogger ... said...

Your "Grammatically Correct" Google Books link doesn't work for me; replacing it with this one will probably work. I guess Google changed its URL structure for book searches.

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