In an earlier blog post we looked at compounds and and noted that some are written with one or two hyphens. Here are a few examples:
Brother-in-law (your sister’s husband or your wife’s or husband’s brother) Runner-up (one who finishes in second place) Cul-de-sac (a street that is closed at one end) Editor-in-chief (the manager of an editorial staff)
How should you write the plural form of such compounds? The answer is fairly logical: add the plural -s to the main part of the compound, the significant part.
Brothers-in-law Runners-up Editors-in-chief
Cul-de-sac has two plural forms: culs-de-sac or cul-de-sacs
When we write the genitive form, the -s comes at the end when we talk about people:
My brother-in-law’s new car The editor-in-chief’s wife
However, you can also write
The wife of the editor-in-chief
When we talk about things, we use the genitive form with of:
Co is a prefix, a syllable placed before a word. The word prefix itself is made up of the prefix pre (meaning before) and the word fix (meaning attach).
The prefix co (and its alternative forms con, com, col and cor, depending on which letter follows the prefix) has the meaning with, together with.
A prefix is usually not followed by a hyphen. Some examples: Afterthought, antedate, biannual, collaborate, commemorate, confederation, displace, ensure, illegal, indirect, overuse, posttraumatic, prepaid, replace, submarine, underestimate, uninterested.
So you are right in leaving out the hyphen in words such as cooperate, collaborate and coordinate.
However, in some cases a hyphen is to prefer, since otherwise the spelling might suggest a different pronunciation:
If you write co-opt without a hyphen (coopt), it looks as if it could be pronounced with a vowel as in too, and re-edit, when written reedit might sound like read it. The same pronunciation issue would apply to, for example, re-enter, re-establish, and re-examine.
Some words with the prefix re- have two versions, one with and one without a hyphen:
When you re-sign a document, you sign it again, but when you resign, you quit a job. To re-cover means to cover again, while recover is to get better, regain your health. When you re-store goods, you put them back in store again, but to restore something means to reconstruct or bring back to a former state.
The two words later and latter look similar but there is an important difference that you should know.
Later modifies a verb, which is why we language nerds call it an adverb. It refers to something happening after a certain time. Let’s go to the cinema and then we can go to the pub later. Their best known product was introduced much later.
Later is also an adjective; it modifies a noun: I prefer his later work, especially the large paintings. Can we discuss this at a later date?
There are a few collocations with later: Sooner or later they will succeed. See you later! Later on in the film, they get married.
Latter usually refers to the second of two persons or things. We can talk about the former and the latter. I have listened a lot to I’m Your Man and Tower of Song and I must say I prefer the latter. Would you like red or white wine? – The latter, please.
Latter can also refer to something being nearer the end. The company went global in the latter part of the 1990s. The full name of the Mormon Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
In British English some nouns end in -ice and the corresponding verbs in -ise:
licence/license (without the i)
In American English noun and verb have the same form; the s is retained in license/license, and the c in practice/practice.
Some words take the same form as verb and noun:
Disguise, exercise, franchise, invoice, merchandise, notice, promise, sacrifice, slice, surprise
Service is a noun but it also functions as a verb: I need to service my car. However, the word has taken on a sexual connotation and you should avoid using it as a verb with one or more persons as direct object. Use serve, help, aid or assist instead.
Against popular belief, the spelling -ize in the word organize was first used in England in the 1400s, centuries before the Pilgrim Fathers landed in America. Nowadays this spelling is considered American, while British English has the form with -ise.
That last statement is not completely true. The so-called Oxford spelling uses the z, which you can read about here.
The spelling with a z agrees with the original root -izo in Greek words. Other English words come from Greek words with an s in their root. Such English words therefore have an s. This applies to words spelled with a y, like analyse, catalyse, dialyse and paralyse. However, you will find many instances of the spelling -yze in American English.
Some verbs must be spelled -ise in both American and British English. Again, even if we state that -ise is the correct spelling of these words, Americans use -ize in some of them.
You should always spell the following verbs with -ise:
American English or British English? Or perhaps Oxford spelling? Does it matter which language you choose? Do your readers care?
Obviously, if you write for an American audience, you should write American English. And if you want to send a paper to a British journal, you should use UK English, which is another name for British English. Always check with the publisher or read the style guide of the journal. However, it is crucial that you are consistent and write your whole text in one and the same language.
When you write a doctoral thesis or a novel, the choice of language is yours. Only, as I said above, be consistent.
If you go for American English, use American spelling and write labor instead of labour, center instead of centre, catalog instead of catalogue, fulfill instead of fulfil, traveling instead of travelling, and so on. Use a z instead of an s in words like recognize and organization. (There are, however, some words that are always written with -ise or -yse – read more about them here.)
American English uses the serial comma, which is the comma that is placed before and or or in a series of words. An example: Horses, cows, and sheep are farm animals. British English does not use this comma.
There are also differences in vocabulary. The American apartment is a flat in Britain, Brits walk on the pavement, while Americans use the sidewalk. And when you are angry in Britain, you are mad in America – to a Brit mad means crazy. When something is quite good it is very good in America but only fairly good in Britain.
There are, of course, also differences in grammar. When a British speaker uses the perfect tense, I have already called him, an American would use the past tense, I already called him. The American a real good movie is in British a really good film.
Oxford spelling is a variant of British English. It prefers -ize in words like organize and recognize instead of the spelling -ise in British English. The spelling with -izeis actually the oldest; organize, for example, appeared in a text in England as early as around 1425. The Oxford spelling is used by publishers like Collins, Longman and Oxford University Press (but not Oxford University!) and some academic journals in Britain. The Oxford spelling uses the serial comma, which therefore is also called the Oxford comma.
All texts and images posted on the copyeditor.se site are subject to copyrights owned by Lars-Olof Nilsson. Any use of texts or images published on these pages is strictly prohibited unless expressly granted in writing.