use of hyphens
Is it necessary to use a hyphen in words such as reinstall, reappointed and reelected?
Determining whether to hyphenate words beginning with the re- prefix can be quite complicated, and the "rule" is not simple.
Here is how the Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition, 2010, University of Chicago Press) handles the problem. In most matters of spelling, CMOS defers to Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition, 2007). However, when it comes to compounds formed with prefixes, CMOS "prefers a spare hyphenation style" (7.85) -- that is, closed spelling without hyphenation. CMOS goes on to note that not all of its preferences, especially those exceptions with hyphens, agree with Webster's.
For all three words -- reappoint, reelect, and reinstall -- both CMOS and Merriam-Webster's agree; the words are spelled without hyphens. The MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (3rd edition, 2007, Modern Language Association) provides similar guidance (at 3.4.6h).
Generally, both CMOS and MLA limit the use of hyphens with re- words to those cases where the meaning might be misinterpreted -- recover and re-cover.
It should be noted that the common wisdom in this matter differs from the professional standards used in the publishing industry. Common wisdom suggests that a hyphen is required when re- occurs before a vowel -- re-elect -- as an aid to pronunciation. However, common wisdom is not always correct.
Before the typewriter became ubiquitous in the 1920s, American publishers solved the pronunciation issue through the use of diacritic marks. These "accent" marks are still common in other languages, but have largely disappeared from English, especially American English. The New Yorker magazine is a notable exception as they continue to use diacritic marks -- reëlect reäppoint reïnstall.
|link||edited Aug 04 '12 at 05:50 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow|
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