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N-dash or hyphen?

Posted by Anders on November 17, 2003

When you write cost-benefit analysis, do you use a hyphen or an n-dash (aka n-rule)? Admittedly, this is a question only for the madly pedantic, but hey, I fit that category, so please - knock yourselves out! I got the Oxford Style Manual for my birthday (as an addition to my Chicago Manual of Style), and in the OSM they render cost-benefit analysis with an n-dash. As I don't have the book with me here (sorry!), I cannot give you the reason for it, but whatever the reason given, it did not, while I was reading it, become clear to me why they prefer the n-dash. They have some other good examples, though, with dire semantic implications: The Arab-American [hyphen] community refers to people originating from the Middle East now living in the States, cf. Afro-American, etc. The Arab-American [n-dash] community, on the other hand, is people from the Arabic countries PLUS Americans considered as one group. This is the OSM's own very up-the-minute example. Based on this, I suppose one would talk about the Soviet-American [n-dash] cold war. On the other hand - and on a lighter note - we may say that Anna Kournikova is a Soviet-American [hyphen] babe. If there is a case to be made in favour of writing cost-benefit analysis with a hyphen, it would be that it's a (compound) word in it's own right. That is, it's very often used. It's not like you alter between it and, say, cost-profit analysis, and even if you did, I still don't see the reason for using the n-dash. I look forward to hearing your comments on this.