It has been remarked that I overuse the hyphen. I do not overuse the hyphen. I occasionally -- very occasionally -- misuse the hyphen. But overuse? Never in life, my dear.*
Did you know that Wikipedia has an entire article on the hyphen? Yes, of course, you did because Wikipedia has entire articles on everything. Even dirt
. But the hyphen article is here
. In which we read:
The use of the hyphen in English compound nouns and verbs has, in general, been steadily declining. Compounds that might once have been hyphenated are increasingly left with spaces or are combined into one word. In 2007, the sixth edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary removed the hyphens from 16,000 entries, such as fig-leaf (now fig leaf), pot-belly (now pot belly) and pigeon-hole (now pigeonhole).
My job, as I see it, is to put it back again. It's what we reactionary, out-dated, non-aggiornamentoed, non-progressive obstructionists are for.
Take co-operate. I think I can safely say you have never seen it in The Inn without the hyphen. And you've probably never seen it with the hyphen in anything printed after, say, the second world war. Not in this country, anyway. And yet co-operate has a lovely, antique, comfortable look about it. I had given some thought to coöperate. But the diaeresis is too easy to miss in the Blogger type-face. There's always the highly visible coøperate but I'm not really the Scandinavian type. Northern European, to be sure, but that's too far north. So co-operate it is.
If you really want to know about the hyphen, Fowler has six double-columned pages devoted to it beginning:
The chaos prevailing among writers or printers or both regarding the use of hyphens is discreditable to English education.
But fear not: he proceeds to sort it out for us.
*A sure sign I've been paging through O'Brian last night.