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Is a lengthy combination of words with hyphens like “the worst not-technically-in-a-recession year in American history” a new fashion of writing?

But I have found that people who don't have it are frequently the ones hell-bent on writing stories. I'm sure anyway that they are the ones who write the books and the magazine article on how-to-write-short-stories.

(from Mystery and Manners by F. O'Connor)

In this passage, "how-to-write-short-stories" is preceded by "on" and doesn't modify a noun. Could anyone explain this usage?

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marked as duplicate by StoneyB, FumbleFingers, MετάEd, Kate Gregory, Zairja Oct 31 '12 at 18:48

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

This is a device to force the phrase to be treated as one word. The implication is that the articles is about a specific thing, a particular way (or perhaps a set of rules) for writing stories.

They could have got a similar effect by using capital letters, implying that the phrase was a name:

the magazine article on How To Write Short Stories.

In either case, the effect is rather dismissive: the writer is implying that the articles are about some magic formula that the writer does not value greatly.

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+1 for beating-me-to-the-punch –  Zairja Oct 31 '12 at 15:27

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