The Grammar Belle

Spiffing y'all up, one typo at a time

7-Year Itch

Hey, y’all. Of course, I’ve been watching TV again . . .

Yesterday, on Good Morning America, I saw a very happy viewer in the Times Square crowd with a sign worded JUST LIKE THIS:

Blogger’s re-creation

Bless her blissfully wedded heart. My more astute readers will notice there are quite a few TGB topics (past and future) contained in that one piece of poster board. Today, I’ve decided to tackle one that’s very high on my I-notice-it-a-lot-and-it-really-drives-me-crazy list.

It has to do with the phrase “14 year.” And no, it’s not jealousy on the part of this divorcée over the length of their marriage.

It’s the missing hyphen.

In the phrase “7-year itch,” the number and the first noun (“year”) are bound together forever, until death do them part. That’s because without each other, the phrase would be nonsense. It’s not a “7 itch.” Nor is it a “year itch.” And when you have two words working together, jointly acting as one adjective, they form a new union and become a compound adjective. (Cue the dove release.)

Thus, as a symbol of their love and devotion and attachment to each other, you need to use a hyphen between them.

Can’t decide if the phrase you’re using is a compound adjective? Think about the following. In kindergarten (or preschool, if your family was uptown like that), you should have learned that:

Wow. I got seriously off the topic there, didn’t I?

OK, perhaps you didn’t learn THAT exactly. What I was meaning to remind you of is that when you have more than one of something, then it’s plural. And when a noun is plural you add “s” (or something similar to that). If you have a number that’s greater than 1 followed by a noun that is NOT plural, then you know you need a hyphen. 90-day guarantee. 3-week trial. 5-second rule.

If you actually have only one of whatever you’re writing about, then substitute a larger number and see what happens! If “4-day weekend” requires a hyphen, so does “1-day weekend.” (That would also require more champagne. And a new job.)

Take a look at the store signs, commercials, and Facebook posts around you. See how many times you spot a number plus a noun that are missing their hyphen. And then you can be driven as crazy as I am. (Hence the need for all that champagne.)

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20 comments on “7-Year Itch

  1. fransiweinstein
    November 15, 2012

    Hypens aside, i hope you tackle two of my pet peeves obe of these days: when to use ‘me’ and when to use ‘I’. And principle versus principal.

  2. The Grammar Belle
    November 15, 2012

    I’ve dipped my toe in the “me” and “I” water. I am thinking that subject needs a full lesson (or a few). And I’ll write those “p” words on my “When Spellcheck Won’t Help” list. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Deb Fairchild
    November 15, 2012

    I learned something AND I laughed. Win/win.

  4. The Melodious One
    November 15, 2012

    Strongly considering keeping a Sharpie in my purse to make all the necessary corrections to public signs from here on out. It’s a public service, people.

    • The Grammar Belle
      November 15, 2012

      It may come as no surprise that I used to do just that. And then I embarrassed one too many dinner companion . . .

  5. ourmom
    November 15, 2012

    I get the hyphen thing right most of the time. Word has a basic understanding of hyphens and sets me straight when I screw up. I used your “me and I” lesson as part of a refresher course last week. I continue to enjoy what you have to say.
    Dave

    • The Grammar Belle
      November 15, 2012

      So glad I could help a tiny bit, Dave! Thanks for stopping by for a visit. 🙂

  6. Mamarific
    November 15, 2012

    Love this one!!

  7. Jo New
    November 15, 2012

    Always educational and entertaining. I loved the dove release! Maybe at some point you could tackle where you put punctuation in a sentence with brackets. For example, where do you put the quotation marks and the period with brackets in place? Just a thought. And whether you can start a sentence with “and”.

    • The Grammar Belle
      November 15, 2012

      Thanks so much for your kind words. (Special doves just for you!) As for punctuating with brackets, I’ll add it to my list! That is one I’ve been asked about a lot. As for starting a sentence with “and,” that often gets a bad rap. But the grammar manuals I use say it’s perfectly fine. It’s a way of drawing attention to the thought that follows. However, overuse can dull its effect. I tend to overuse it . . .

  8. outlawmama
    November 15, 2012

    I’ve been trying to teach my law students this for 10 weeks.

  9. dr phil
    November 19, 2012

    Thanks 4-your help, but I’m afraid it may be 2-late.
    dr.p.

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  12. Rola
    November 27, 2013

    I stumbled upon your blog and blog post while doing a quick hyphen-related search. As someone who is a fan of the written word, I subscribed to your blog. I look forward to many more grammarlicious posts! I recently started my own blog not too long ago. Feel free to stop by and check it out! http://www.thetalkingpencil.com

    • The Grammar Belle
      November 28, 2013

      I am so happy you found me! I am going to have to steal your word “grammarlicious.” Perhaps I need a new tagline for myself . . . 😉 I look forward to reading your site too. And if you ever have any comments or suggestions for me, please send them my way!

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This entry was posted on November 15, 2012 by in Don't Make Me Beg, Punctuation, When Spellcheck Won't Help.

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