Problem based learning

Re: The death of the hyphen

5 May 2008

Dr Allen may be being unfair on the author of the article: the BMJ has - for ever as far as I know - expunged almost every hyphen from its articles. I think the BMJ believes hyphens are messy, and make the text look somehow unattractive. That's as may be but, as Dr Allen so correctly writes, hyphens make for easier reading. It is, however, important that they are not used lazily in strings of noun modifiers. An article (not in the BMJ) included the phrase "fixed duration constant rate infusions". The meaning is made clearer by two hyphens, but is better written as "infusions of constant rate and fixed duration".

The BMJ also dislikes capital letters. While there is no need for Consultants and Surgeons, simply altering all capitals to lower case may be wrong: an article in the BMJ many years ago dealt with "conservative social commentators", who may have been conservative, but the correct sense was Conservative.

Competing interests: None declared

Competing interests: None declared

Neville W Goodman, Retired Anaesthetist

Bristol, BS9 3LW, UK

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