Home Grammar Breaking apart is difficult to do

Breaking apart is difficult to do

Breaking apart is difficult to do


Q: I believed I knew the principles for hyphenating syllable breaks, however apparently not. For example, I assumed that “qu” shouldn’t be cut up because it’s pronounced as a single sound. However my dictionary breaks “fairness” as eq-ui-ty and “aqua” as aq-ua. Why?

A: Initially, the principles of hyphenation—that’s, for splitting a phrase that breaks on the finish of a line of print or writing—have little or nothing to do with how a phrase splits when spoken.

The “qu” combo represents not one sound however two (“ok” + “w”), and as we’ll clarify later, it’s typically cut up, each typographically and phonetically. Our recommendation is to overlook about determining the “guidelines” right here, and seize a dictionary that exhibits each the typographical and the phonetic splits.

Whenever you lookup an extended phrase, you’ll discover that the phrase is cut up into divisions in two alternative ways.

Take the phrase “accomplishment” as given in Merriam-Webster on-line. The phrase is first divided as ac·​com·​plish·​ment, with mid-level dots indicating the place it splits for typographical functions. The phrase is then divided once more for pronunciation functions: ə-ˈkäm-plish-mənt. 

Word the distinction within the two divisions. The primary two syllables aren’t cut up the identical manner for writing and for talking.

The distinction is even clearer with the type of suffixed phrases that break a method in print and one other in speech.

For example, “ending” is hyphenated as finish·​ing however pronounced EN-ding. And “orally” is hyphenated as o·​ral·​ly however pronounced OR-uh-lee. The suffixes “-ing” and “-ly” are separate syllables for hyphenation functions, even after they’re spoken together with a previous consonant.

As for phrases spelled with “qu,” we haven’t discovered any authoritative clarification for when the letters are cut up typographically and after they’re not. However after consulting a number of customary dictionaries, we can provide you an concept of the standard conventions.

(1) When “q” comes between two vowels—because it normally does—the hyphen can both precede or comply with the “q,” whatever the spoken stress or the vowel worth (lengthy vs. brief) of the previous syllable.

  • Written phrases during which the hyphen precedes the “q” embody “aquarium” (a·quar·i·um) … “aquatic” (a·quat·ic) … “acqueous” (a·que·ous) … “equal” (e·​qual) … “equator” (e·qua·tor) …“equestrian” (e·ques·tri·an) … “equidistant” (e·qui·dis·tant) … “equip” (e·quip) … “equinox” (e·qui·nox) … “obloquy” (ob·lo·quy) … “sequester” (se·ques·ter).
  • Written phrases during which the the hyphen follows the “q” embody “aqua” (aq·ua) … “aqueduct” (aq·ue·duct) … “aquiline” (aq·ui·line) … “equable” (eq·ua·ble) … “fairness” (eq·ui·ty) … “equitation” (eq·​ui·​ta·​tion) … “equitable” (eq·ui·ta·ble) … “iniquity” (in·iq·ui·ty).

(2) When “c” precedes “q,” the hyphen divides the 2 consonants regardless that they’re pronounced collectively: “acquaint” (ac·quaint) …  “acquiesce” (ac·qui·esce) … “purchase” (ac·quire) … “acquit” (ac·give up). In speech, such phrases have only a vowel as the primary syllable.

We’ve taken all of these “qu” examples from two customary American dictionaries: American Heritage on-line and Webster’s New World Faculty Dictionary (fifth print ed.). We used these dictionaries as a result of they present the place a hyphen would theoretically go after a single letter, one thing you’re all for realizing.

Nevertheless, the query of hyphenating a phrase like “equal” (e·qual) is merely tutorial. In actual life, no typographer would break a phrase and begin a brand new line after just one letter. As any editor, proofreader, or compositor is aware of, you by no means strand (or “orphan”) a primary letter on the finish of a line.

That’s why Merriam-Webster doesn’t present hyphenations after a single opening letter, even when the letter is pronounced as a separate syllable. M-W’s entry for “equal,” for instance, leaves the headword entire and undivided. It splits solely the pronunciation, which it provides as ˈē-kwəl. The message: The phrase is left entire in writing however is spoken in two elements.

Three M-W editors clarify all this in a “Phrase Issues” podcast that ends with a dialogue of hyphenation conventions. They usually be aware that in apply, few folks in the present day must know the way a phrase ought to break on the finish of a line as a result of phrase processing applications do it for us.

This can be why fewer and fewer dictionaries in the present day supply hyphenation guides, particularly dictionaries which can be revealed solely on-line. Even those who do supply hyphenation guides could differ in these issues.

For example, the Longman Dictionary of Up to date English, a British supply, disagrees with a few the American hyphenations cited above.

The place the American dictionaries have e·qui·nox, Longman has eq·ui·nox; the place the People have eq·ui·ta·ble, Longman has eq·uit·a·ble.

So select your dictionary and don’t attempt to suss out the “guidelines.”

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