4

The New York Times just published an article where they use the word "yearslong":

Federal agents charged 18 current and former members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on Monday, accusing them of excessive use of force and obstruction of justice as part of a sprawling, yearslong investigation into allegations of misconduct and abuse of inmates in county jails, federal law enforcement officials said.

Is this a typo?

Edit:

A day later, NYT changed the paragraph and removed the word in question, but in the process, they misspelled another word! Here's the new paragraph:

Federal prosectors on Monday charged 18 current and former members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department with excessive use of force and obstruction of justice as part of a sprawling investigation into allegations of misconduct and abuse of inmates in county jails, federal law enforcement officials said.

This is too funny.

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  • @RegDwight: Thank you for the "is-it-a-word" tag! – user40248 Dec 9 '13 at 21:31
  • 1
    Have you looked it up? – Edwin Ashworth Dec 9 '13 at 21:43
  • Yes I have, in dictionary.reference.com, but did not find an entry. – user40248 Dec 9 '13 at 22:06
  • Here's the link to the NYT article: nytimes.com/2013/12/10/us/… – user40248 Dec 9 '13 at 22:07
  • The NYT is being "digitally mobbed up". Aren't we all? – Lambie Aug 31 '18 at 21:53
6

Dictionary.reference.com doesn't list yearslong, but it does list yearlong. I think the more proper spelling would be years-long (and, to be honest, year-long as well).

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1

After a yearslong consideration, The NYT appears to have changed its mind. From the story on the CIA intelligence agent being found guilty (1/27/2015), the following appears:

Prosecutors prevailed after a yearslong fight in which the reporter, James Risen, refused to identify his sources.

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1

The following entry from Allan M. Siegal & William Connolly, The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, revised and expanded edition (1999) offers strong evidence that the cited article's use of the form yearslong was not an accident:

year(-). Most but not all compounds formed with year are one word: yearbook, year-end, yearling, yearlong (adj.), year-round (adj.).

The same advice appears in The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, fifth edition (2015).

This is an example of the dreaded style-guide slippery slope in action. Having established that the preferred treatment of the adjective for describing a duration of one year is yearlong, the New York Times editorial department couldn't very well reject the logical corollary that the preferred adjective for describing a duration of multiple years is yearslong. That seems the likeliest explanation of how the word yearslong passed muster with the the various editors who vetted this story.

The instance of prosectors, on the other hand, appears to be a very different animal: a hands-on change introduced after the normal editorial process had run its course—and therefore a change introduced without the normal safety net of a subsequent close proofread done by another staffer.

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If the NYT has printed the word "yearslong," then the editors there must agree on its usage to clarify meaning. What I don't understand is why the NYT doesn't present the actual number of years instead. The word "yearslong" works, but it seems like a cheap way out when no one bothered to research the actual number of years this "investigation" was going on. I might expect this from students but not from the NYT! I might have to ask a student, "How many years does 'yearslong' refer to?" But I certainly would expect the NYT to deliver the actual facts without my having to ask. I plan to avoid the use of this word entirely. If I can't say how many years, then I should say why the information isn't available.

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-1

The problem with printing "yearslong" as one word is that it does not distinguish between "years long," something lasting for years, and "year slong," which is a slong belonging to a year. This distinction should not be lost. The proper form should be "years-long."

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  • 2
    What is a slong? – Lumberjack Aug 31 '18 at 20:37
  • Welcome to EL&U. Stack Exchange is more about answering what something is, rather than what something should be; I strongly encourage you to take the site tour and review the help center for additional guidance. – choster Aug 31 '18 at 21:21

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