Hyphenation for ESL audiences?

Subject: Hyphenation for ESL audiences?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "Techwr-L (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>, "'Marshall, Anna'" <amarsha -at- path -dot- org>
Date: Thu, 21 Aug 2003 09:16:36 -0400

Anna Marshall wonders: <<When you're writing and editing material for
audiences who speak English as a secondary language, do you tend more or
less toward hyphenation? Specifically, I'm looking for info on compound
adjectives or nouns that could go either way hyphenation-wise.>>

Hyphens _always_ clarify the meaning compared with leaving a compound
unhyphenated, and that assistance is crucial for ESL audiences. But the
hyphen can also be a patch for a badly constructed sentence, with far too
many qualifiers stacked before the noun. If it's really an issue of "could
go either way", then hyphenate on the principle that it couldn't possibly
hurt. But if the hyphen is absolutely necessary for clarity--and
particularly when there are multiple hyphens--recast and simplify the

<<Freeze prevention strategies>>

"Strategies to prevent freezing." The original phrase isn't particularly
good English even for non-ESL audiences.

<<Cold chain storage>>

Bad English to begin with. Why do chains need to be stored in a cold room?
Alternatively, what is a "cold chain", and why are we storing one? <g>
Reword to be clear for non-ESL readers too: "The chain of events in cold

<<I know that *most* sentences could be re-written to avoid this question;
however, sometimes I get documents at the last minute, and I need to make
the easiest fix possible in terms of not muddling text-wrapping or layout.>>

The real solution is not doing significant editing at the layout stage.
These problems should be fixed long before the document goes to final
layout, thereby eliminating any problems related to reflowing text. To
achieve this, you need to work with your authors to make it so easy for them
to be edited before layout that they don't have any excuse not to give you
stuff for editing early. But if you're forced to work with the layout, the
important thing is to speak clearly, not to preserve the text wrap.

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
(try ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca if you get no response)
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada

"I don't read literary theory anymore; it makes my brain hurt... I have way
too much time on my hands and way too little to think about. In this
respect, the laundromat is not much different from the English department
office."--Tim Morris, U of Texas English professor ("Suds", in _The American

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