Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

When discussing temperatures or decades, should it be hyphenated?
I understood that two-word adjectives need to be hyphenated, but why does MS Word think this should be, too?

share|improve this question
    
I'm having trouble parsing your MS Word sentence--are you confused why it does follow the rule that things should be hyphenated? –  simchona Sep 7 '11 at 13:58
    
@simchona: I think the confusion is that "mid" is a word and "80s" is not a word (at least I assume it is not, according to the poster, or why post this question) but MS Word hyphenates it as if "mid" and "80s" were two word. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Sep 7 '11 at 14:16
    
What sentence is this flagged as an error in? I can't duplicate it with some simple examples in Word, but I'm not sure if I've turned on grammar checking correctly. @simchona, The problem is that this phrase is not necessarily an adjective. You would say "In the mid 80s" for example. –  Random832 Sep 7 '11 at 16:50
    
Examples of sentences: 1) "The temperature yesterday was in the mid 80s." 2) "He was born sometime during the mid 80s." Concerning MS Word, I thought "mid 80s" is correct but it wanted to change it to "mid-80s" and I disagree. Thanks everyone –  Mark Sep 8 '11 at 6:58
    
Does it just do it with "mid", or also high/low/early/late? Part of the problem may be that "mid" is perceived as somehow not being a real word. –  Random832 Sep 9 '11 at 16:24
add comment

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Should it be "mid 80s" or "mid-80s"?

Yes.

My American Heritage Dictionary has entries for the adjective 'mid' and the prefix 'mid-'.

Modifying the noun 80s with the adjective mid would be written as mid 80s.

But creating word by appending the noun 80s to the prefix mid would be written as mid-80s.

So, it depends on which form of mid you use.

Please note that if there is a standard dictionary for the project you are working on, you must ensure that there is an entry for the adjective mid, not just the prefix. If no such entry exists, you're stuck with the prefix mid, which means you're also stuck with the hyphen.

share|improve this answer
    
Yes, as I just posted above, I am using "mid" as an adjective to modify "80s." Thus it makes the most sense to me to have it without the hyphen. But now I understand that MS Word thinks I was creating a two-word adjective like "mid-80s music" or "mid-80s temperature." Thanks for everyone's comments. –  Mark Sep 8 '11 at 7:01
add comment

This is really a kind of corner case where there's probably no consensually accepted solution used and preferred by the majority of speakers.

Just either:

  • if you have no editor, use whichever you think looks clearest to read and don't worry about it too much;
  • if you have an editor, use whichever your editor tells you to use (or let them worry about it).
share|improve this answer
add comment

I would normally go for the non-hyphenated case.

NB "mid '80s" is more correct for decades because it is a contraction of "mid 1980s" (presumably).

share|improve this answer
    
Yeah, but that also just depends on your preference for how you use apostrophes. Would you write 'phone, for example? –  Neil Coffey Sep 7 '11 at 17:00
    
"More correct" does not mean I'd always (or even prefer to) use it. But, yes, 'phone is still a contraction of telephone. –  Mark Hurd Sep 7 '11 at 17:12
1  
Mmmm OK, why exactly do you consider it "more correct", then? Unless you think that (a) God stipulates this kind of thing, or (b) the use of the apostrophe in a particular place is intrinsically tied to some phenomenon of nature, then really what you're left with is a matter of preference. Maybe in some cases it's a collective preference, but it's still a preference! –  Neil Coffey Sep 7 '11 at 18:08
1  
I would've thought the use of apostrophes in contractions was pretty clear, and I would agree that there certainly should be one in '80s. The example 'phone is different - you're talking about the usage and spelling of a single word that changes over time, such as Halloween. Indicating a contraction such as '80s is a different kettle of fish. –  Snubian Sep 8 '11 at 6:04
    
I suppose my "more correct" means "more formal": if you're writing in a context where you'd expect to have nits picked, using 'phone (or probably the full word telephone) is less likely to be questioned than just phone. (In fact I see both the same as @Snubian, but '80s is not as "changed" as 'phone.) –  Mark Hurd Sep 8 '11 at 10:51
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.