Examining the Hyphen

In Sunday’s "Week in Review" section of the New York Times, Charles McGrath reports that the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary recently eliminated 16,000 hyphens from the sixth edition. This is not the first time the end of the hyphen has been predicted. In The Elements of Style, Strunk and White predicted the hyphen would eventually fall out of use. But in her forthcoming book Punctuation: Art, Politics, and Play (May 2008), Jennifer DeVere Brody writes about the hyphen’s role in the rise of identity politics. She muses on the idea of the "hyphenated American," and wonders whether the hyphen can function as a site of resistance for marginalized figures or if it is instead too reductive. In addition to the hyphen, Brody also writes about the period or dot, ellipsis, quotation mark, and emoticons. Look for the book this spring.

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