Friday, June 13, 2008

Here's a lesson for the teacher...

I seriously hope she brushes up on her punctuation skills before she starts teaching in the fall. It doesn't bode well for her or her students if she's already mispunctuating her job title. Sigh.

People always ask me why I didn't become an English teacher. My answer: because I swear too damn much, can't usually explain any grammar rules to anyone (my usual explanation is "I don't know why it's like that--I just know that this is how it should be written and this is how it should not be written), and because I'd constantly be swiping material from my students' papers and posting it here on Red Pen, Inc. I'd get fired in, like, a week.

Thanks to BRETT for sending in this one--and for being nice enough to hide the name of the person who committed this silly punctuation sin. If this had been written by one of my friends, I'd probably have taught 'em a lesson and kept their damn name in the post so as to embarrass them into using proper punctuation next time. (Kidding...maybe.)


Angela said...

Isn't that a compound modifier, though? The publication I work for always hyphenates high-school student, high-school teacher, etc.

Just curious and wonder if we've been doing it wrong all this time, lol.


I'm thinking it shouldn't be hyphenated. When I drive by local high schools, for instance, they do not hyphenate "high school" on the sign outside their building, so I'm using that as my guide, figuring they know best what their school name is and whether there should be any punctuation in its title. I have never seen a high school that hyphenated the words "high school." :)


I double-checked this as well, Angela. I certainly see your argument, because that IS how those words are behaving in the sentence. However, I can find no instances where it's hyphenated.

I suppose this might be a poor argument, but I'll answer your question with another one. If "high school" is already being modified within itself, you'd either ALWAYS hyphenate, or never, correct? It's not like it suddenly becomes unnecessary when it stands alone as a de facto noun.

For example, you wouldn't say "deep-sea fisher" or "big-rig trucker".

However, like The Grammarphile, I'm only good for comparisons, and what looks/sounds right. The RULE-rule may contradict me.

Angela said...

I'm also bad at explaining grammar rules....but I'll give it a shot.

High school on its own wouldn't be hyphenated. "She was a junior in high school." "The game was held at Brooklyn High School."

It's when you use "high school" as a modifier that it needs to be hyphenated. If you're reading literally, there's a big difference between "high-school students" and "high school students." The first means "students who go to high school"; the second means "school students who are high" (and that's a whole new can of worms, lol).

Generally, when two words combine to modify a noun (like in this case, "high school" modifies "teacher"), you would hyphenate to link them.

stock-car race
real-estate agent
folk-music band

Obviously though, there are a million and a half exceptions, and various publications probably handle it differently, so YMMV.


Angela, you're good at 'splaining stuff. :) I know my publication doesn't hyphenate "high school" in any instance, but you're right, everyone has weird/different punctuation rules. And Facebook has the craziest--or the most nonexistent--punctuation rules of all, doesn't it?

Angela said...

Facebook is only topped by MySpace when it comes to creative spelling, grammar and punctuation. :)


Ooh, and BOTH of them are trumped only by AIM, which apparently gives license to everyone, older or younger, to talk like children who are just now learning their numbers and ABCs. ;)

Karen said...

Grammarphile...Your second paragraph there is EXACTLY me. I can't explain why, I just know that's the way it is.

My company does a lot of work for schools. High school is not hyphenated - at least, not by them.

JD said...

On my publication, which is concerned with the road transport industry, we follow the hyphenation rule so wonderfully explained by Angela - except in the case of 'road transport industry'. Isn't that odd? I suppose it could be read as 'road' + 'transport industry' as opposed to 'road transport' + 'industry' (unlike in the case of 'high school student').