Season’s Greetings – and some thoughts for the New Year…

We at Prompt Proofing would like to wish all of our customers, and potential customers, the best of this holiday season and a successful and prosperous New Year.

For my last blog post of 2019, I want to update and clarify a few editing points and also look at some changes in style coming (maybe?) in 2020.

Punctuation changes:


We have written a fair amount on correct hyphen use in the past, only to find that the 2020 AP stylebook will recommend the demise of the hyphen in adjectival words such as well-documented; well-known, etc. As you know, we have always hyphenated these words when they precede the noun they qualify: a well-documented fact; a well-known politician, etc. The AP stylebook has now decreed – as of its 2020 edition -that hyphens should not be used with these words. This one is going to take a bit of getting used to!

I would still advise hyphenating other qualifiers, where ambiguity could occur and AP does also. For example, there will still be an essential difference between a small-business owner and a small business owner.

In fact, the ‘no hyphen’ rule is actually not a firm rule at all; seems that people may be advised to use their own judgment. AP style suggests using the hyphen when confusion could result and omitting it when not – fair enough? Makes sense, no? To further confuse writers and editors, AP initially tweeted its intention of dropping hyphens in first-quarter, third-term, etc. This was met with such outrage that they have now reversed that decision. However, they will be recommending no hyphens for African American; Chinese Canadian, etc. Confused yet?

The ’em’ dash:

How to correctly punctuate with the em dash is still debatable, and, again, often a case of personal preference. It is now often seen with no space either side: The figures—taken from last year’s budget—suggest that… At Prompt Proofing, we have always used spaces either side, and AP style follows the same guidelines so we will continue to use spaces unless customers – using a different style guide – specifically request otherwise. That said sources do differ and this one is argumentably dependant on personal style – if you’re not tied to using AP style.

Evolving vocabulary:

With an educational background, I admit to some personal struggles with a lot of business/tech language that has now become acceptable through ubiquitous usage. As editors, we are well aware that language and punctuation rules are constantly changing – below are a few changes we’ve accepted (however reluctantly), and one that we never will…

Words that used to be ‘no-no’s but have now become acceptable through common usage:

Technologies, efficiencies, and realities – I link these together as they really follow the same guidelines. I’ll admit it was a while before I was happy with these words and – if I’m being really pedantic – they are still incorrect. Technology, efficiency and reality are non-count nouns and therefore pluralizing them is incorrect, right? Well, yes, strictly speaking; however, these terms have become so widely used and accepted in business and technical writing that we have been forced to accept they’re now OK.

Some battles you just have to concede.

Hopefully – most often, now, used to mean you hope something will happen, rather than that you are full of hope. Again, usage wins – it’s now perfectly OK to use it that way: Hopefully, the treatment will be successful.

One word that definitely remains a ‘no-no’:

Irregardless – sorry but this is absolutely not a word. As the prefix ‘ir’ gives the rest of the word the opposite meaning, this infers the antonym of ‘regardless’, which is never the intention of the user.


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