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Three Lesser Known Archetypes

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

Discovered an insightful blog article on useful secondary characters each of us should consider. While I've used each of these, it's good to remember that they're a useful accepted character type, ready to serve at a moment's notice.

Three More Lesser Known Archetypes, from WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®.

In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I'm going to go back and read the original article.

By the way, I've long loved the "Writers Helping Writers" library, even though I haven't yet purchased many of the books. They provide very useful insights into many aspects of fiction writing. Their "Thesaurus" series is particularly useful to have on hand when you need story details you're not already familiar with.

Ross at Play
Updated:

I'll take your word that the article is 'insightful', but their use of 'more lesser' doesn't inspire much confidence. :(

EDIT TO AMEND
It finally dawned on me what the intended meaning was. It's now the missing hyphen in 'lesser-known' which fails to inspire confidence.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ross at Play

their use of 'more lesser' doesn't inspire much confidence


Actually, that caught my attention too. But it's perfectly fine.

He previously gave some lesser known character types. Now he's giving some more. So "more lesser known" is fine.

ETA: As to the hyphen, it's not needed. It works with the hyphen, but I think we've gone overboard with hyphens. It works without the hyphen as well so why hyphenate it?

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

As to the hyphen, it's not needed. It works with the hyphen, but I think we've gone overboard with hyphens. It works without the hyphen as well so why hyphenate it?

Duh! Because it's clearer and less subject to confusion?

While hyphen use is largely Style based, in the case of easily confused phrases (when you don't know how to evaluate the order of the words), then it becomes more important.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

It works without the hyphen as well so why hyphenate it?

It doesn't work. I got tripped up and misinterpreted it. If the author had been more careful they could have prevented that.
I think this is a case of an author going 'overboard' by slavishly following rules suggesting no punctuation mark is necessary.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

... in the case of easily confused phrases (when you don't know how to evaluate the order of the words)

I am especially cautious when any quantifiers (e.g. more, less, most, least) appear before other modifiers in front of a noun.
Those words almost always have two potential meanings:
- one as an adverb modifying the adjective which follows it
- the other as an adjective modifying the final noun.
Once any of those words are being used, I tend to hyphenate all compound modifiers, even if they aren't essential. It simply makes it easier for readers when they can see any compound modifier(s) in among some string of other single-word modifiers.
I would still do that with adverbs ending in '-ly', for example, in this case if the words 'lesser known' were replaced with 'rarely used'.
I think ensuring clarity for readers is more important than slavishly following any rules on punctuation -- even those which suggest punctuation marks are not essential in some circumstances. It's possible to go overboard on those too.

EDIT TO ADD
To CW - That came out sounding like a rant at you. I agree with your point, and was adding the point that using quantifiers is, in my experience, the most common cause of 'easily confused phrases'.

Switch Blayde

Crumbly and Ross,

I just read it again. What stopped me cold was the "more lesser" combo. It was almost like an oxymoron. But once I got past that, it was fine.

Take out the "more" and read the sentence: "Three Lesser Known Archetypes." You wouldn't hyphenate "lesser-known" in that case.

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

You wouldn't hyphenate "lesser-known" in that case.

I have no problem if you choose against hyphenating it, but it would be wrong to suggest others should not.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

but it would be wrong to suggest others should not.


I try not to suggest how others should do it. Just give my opinion on what I believe is right and how I would do it.

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

Just give my opinion ...

I recognise you're usually very good at avoiding sounding dogmatic.
In this case, your choice of the words "You wouldn't ..." was a bit ... unfortunate? :)

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ross at Play


"You wouldn't ..." was a bit ... unfortunate?


Crumbly once took issue with my use of "you." When I say "you" I'm most likely using it generically.

"You typically put your left shoe on before your right one" is not saying you do that, but people in general do.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

but people in general do.

I understood you weren't using it personally, but in general, and that is what I disagree with.
My guess is a large majority of published fiction would have expressions like 'lesser-known' hyphenated.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I just read it again. What stopped me cold was the "more lesser" combo. It was almost like an oxymoron. But once I got past that, it was fine.

Take out the "more" and read the sentence: "Three Lesser Known Archetypes." You wouldn't hyphenate "lesser-known" in that case.


You can argue why not to hyphenate all you want, but unless you include the hyphen, the sentence will continue tripping everyone up. However, since none of us wrote the sentence, I really don't see how it matters. We didn't write the incorrect title on a writing blog!

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I try not to suggest how others should do it. Just give my opinion on what I believe is right and how I would do it.

That's fine. You'll just have to find an all-new title.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

but unless you include the hyphen, the sentence will continue tripping everyone up


I remember what Grammar Girl says:

The reason I didn't say that I absolutely should have hyphenated "noise canceling headphones" is that if leaving out the hyphen causes no ambiguity, some style guides, such as the Chicago Manual of Style, say it's OK to leave it out; and I don't think anyone would read my meaning differently with or without a hyphen.


So if you believe it would trip someone up, it's best to hyphenate it. If you don't, you don't have to.

Replies:   Ross at Play  Capt. Zapp
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

You quoted Grammar Girl as saying this:

The reason I didn't say that I absolutely should have hyphenated "noise canceling headphones" is that if leaving out the hyphen causes no ambiguity, some style guides, such as the Chicago Manual of Style, say it's OK to leave it out; and I don't think anyone would read my meaning differently with or without a hyphen.

This is located at http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/how-to-use-a-hyphen?page=1

GRAMMAR GIRL GOT THAT ONE WRONG!
CMOS definitely does not support her contention that it is "OK" to omit a hyphen from 'noise-canceling headphones'.
[Note, I'm not claiming to know more about grammar than Grammar Girl. I'm claiming I have the book she quoted in front of me, and her interpretation of one section, 7.80, is incorrect, because she overlooked the fact that section is only relevant when the conditions listed in another section, 7.85, are not applicable.]

The relevant section in CMOS is 7.85, titled 'Hyphenation guide for compounds and words formed with prefixes'.
This section begins with an introduction to tables as follows (with some parts edited for simplicity)

When using this guide … consult the preceding paragraphs in this section (7.77–84)—especially if a relevant example cannot be found. In general, Chicago prefers a spare hyphenation style: if no suitable example or analogy can be found either in this section or in the dictionary, hyphenate only if doing so will aid readability. The first section (of the following table) deals with compounds according to category; the second section, with compounds according to parts of speech. The third section lists …

The 'noise-canceling' example is covered in the second section of the table with the entry for 'noun + participle'. CMOS recommendation 'hyphenated before a noun, otherwise open'. It provides an example of 'clothes-buying grandmother'. Note that there is no potential ambiguity with that phrase, yet CMOS still recommends the compound adjective should be hyphenated.

The quote in CMOS that Grammar Girl has misinterpreted appears to be 7.80, titled 'Hyphens and readability'. It states:

A hyphen can make for easier reading by showing structure and, often, pronunciation. Words that might otherwise be misread, such as 're-creation' or 'co-op', should be hyphenated. Hyphens can also eliminate ambiguity. For example, the hyphen in much-needed clothing shows that the clothing is greatly needed rather than abundant and needed. Where no ambiguity could result, as in 'public welfare administration' or 'graduate student housing', hyphenation is unnecessary.

That section is horribly written, but it should not be applied unless there is no suitable example in 7.85. One situation which has no example in 7.85 is with two nouns modifying another noun. There may be others, but that is the form of both examples they provided. Note that those examples do not have a compound adjective. Both 'welfare administration' and 'student housing' make sense on their own, and they are merely being further modified when the 'public' and 'graduate' are added in front of them. That is not so with the example she was considering, nor the one we have been discussing. Neither 'canceling headphones' nor 'known archetypes' make sense.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ross at Play


GRAMMAR GIRL GOT THAT ONE WRONG!


In my opinion, I don't think so. She must have been referring to this part of the CMOS you quoted:


hyphenate only if doing so will aid readability


and


Where no ambiguity could result, as in 'public welfare administration' or 'graduate student housing', hyphenation is unnecessary.


This is what Grammar Girl said:


The reason I didn't say that I absolutely should have hyphenated "noise canceling headphones" is that if leaving out the hyphen causes no ambiguity,


So just as she says "noise cancelling" doesn't cause ambiguity (people will know what she meant), "lesser known" falls into the same category. Even the quote from CMOS you included says that:


Where no ambiguity could result, as in 'public welfare administration' or 'graduate student housing', hyphenation is unnecessary.


It's not a hard and fast rule. If the hyphen is needed to eliminate ambiguity, then use it. If it doesn't, it's optional. But having too many hyphenated words will be a distraction or even annoying to a reader. As CMOS says: "hyphenate only if doing so will aid readability."

As I said, it's simply my interpretation and opinion.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

I've sent you a copy of the original. Note that the table from 7.85 has been transferred to a separate sheet called 'HYPHENS'.
If you look at that you will see it includes specific examples showing what it recommends for both 'lesser-known archetypes' and 'noise-canceling headphones'.
In the row called 'adverb not ending in ly + participle or adjective' there is the example 'a lesser-paid colleague'. Replace one past participle, paid, with another, known, and it is clear it recommends 'lesser-known' should be hyphenated when it comes before a noun.
Likewise, in the row called 'noun + participle' there is an example 'a clothes-buying grandmother'. That is using the same parts of speech as 'noise-canceling headphones', i.e. noun participle noun. CMOS recommends hyphenating both.
The quotes you mentioned from 7.80 are not relevant to either of those situations. 'Lesser-paid' and 'noise-canceling' are compound adjectives, but 'public welfare' and 'graduate student' are not.
* *
Consider this ... you are effectively claiming an exception exists for compound adjectives should be hyphenated: only do so when some potential for ambiguity exists. If that was so, why would anyone mention 'except adverbs ending in -ly'? ... THINK ABOUT THIS! ... The thing that distinguishes adverbs ending in -ly is they automatically have no potential for ambiguity. If the writer wants that word to modify a distant noun instead of the next word, they will drop the -ly from the adverb to create the corresponding adjective. If what you are saying was correct, none of us would ever have heard the expression 'except adverbs ending in -ly' - they would already all be covered by the exception for when there is no potential ambiguity.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

You may be right. But I found in the past I was hyphenating a lot of words and it looked clumsy. I thought they stood out. So I only put them in to make something clear.

Right or wrong, I do a similar thing with commas. I don't like a lot of commas so sometimes I leave one out of a list of adjectives when it sounds better (to me) not to have it.

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

You may be right. But I found in the past ...

Trust me! On this point I am right ... Grammar Girl got this one wrong!
* *
I DO NOT claim what you do is wrong. There are various styles which can be adopted. I gather from Wikipedia that some style guides recommend the style you use. CMOS is NOT one of them.
Not hyphenating when there is no potential ambiguity CAN be done, but the author must be VERY CAREFUL.
I would strongly recommend against it for all except very experienced authors.
It is so easy for an author to look at something they've written and be unable to see an alternative interpretation someone else might find. That is why guides like CMOS recommend hyphenating ALL compound adjectives (except the -ly adverbs and a few quantifiers) even though they will often appear superfluous. That is what is done for most fiction produced by the major publishing houses.
[BTW, there is another exception I have not mentioned above that should not be hyphenated. Proper nouns, e.g. United States, do not need to be hyphenated. The capital letters have the effect of grouping words as an indivisible unit that otherwise would require hyphens.]
* *
I see a very similar advantage in doing so consistently to that gained when serial commas are used consistently. Yes, you will end up using more punctuation than seems necessary, but it protects you from writing something that has an easily overlooked, ambiguous interpretation.
There really shouldn't be very many of them. If an author thinks they may be hyphenating too often, they should probably look at whether they are hyphenating some things that aren't truly compound adjectives.
There are examples in CMOS 7.80 which writers could easily get wrong. At first glance, it may appear that the 'public' in 'public welfare administration' is only modifying 'welfare'. Writers may be tempted to hyphenate them. The question writers should consider (I think, and this can get very tricky) is whether 'public' can be considered to be modifying 'welfare administration'. Yes, it can, so 'public welfare' is not a compound adjective. and it does not need to be hyphenated.
Likewise, 'graduate' can be considered to be modifying 'student housing', so 'graduate student' does not need to be hyphenated.
* *
To SB, I'm sorry if I was coming on a bit strong on this issue. I know you are experienced and careful enough to use your style successfully. I was concerned that newer authors reading this thread may think what you do is the usual practice. It is not. Dragons be there! So much so that few of the best (published) authors even dare to go there.

Capt. Zapp

@Switch Blayde

So if you believe it would trip someone up, it's best to hyphenate it.


So, since their use of 'more lesser' did trip someone up, it should be hyphenated?

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ross at Play


Trust me! On this point I am right ... Grammar Girl got this one wrong!


She claims she didn't get it wrong when she said:


"The reason I didn't say that I absolutely should have hyphenated "noise canceling headphones" is that if leaving out the hyphen causes no ambiguity, some style guides, such as the Chicago Manual of Style, say it's OK to leave it out; and I don't think anyone would read my meaning differently with or without a hyphen."


I highlighted the parts I'm referring to. I could have substituted ellipses for the non-bolded parts, but this way everyone can see all her words.

ETA: And I feel the same way about "lesser known." I don't think anyone would read it differently if it were either "lesser-known" or "lesser known." So if there's no ambiguity, CMOS says the hyphen can be left out.

ETA2: I just asked my wife (Masters in English Literature and Creative Writing and former English teacher). She would hyphenate "lesser-known." She said both are grammatically correct, but she would hyphenate it.

Replies:   Ross at Play  REP
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

I'm not arguing with anyone's opinion about whether it is better to hyphenate them or not. I'm arguing the matter of fact about what CMOS recommends hyphenating them.
IT DOES. And the fact that neither of these two would be ambiguous is irrelevant to their recommendation.
Some style do what Grammar Girl suggests. CMOS is NOT one of them. They recommend all compound adjectives (with only a few exceptions) should be hyphenated.
The reason, as I see it, for that is it's just too hard for authors to spot when some ambiguous interpretations are possible. Anyone who tries is bound to get it wrong sometimes.
That's why most published authors routinely hyphenate compound adjectives - even when it's bleeding obvious that an ambiguous interpretation is not possible.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

Then Grammar Girl was just covering up her mistake by pointing out the ambiguity statement in CMOS. After all, her real job is a professional editor.

Replies:   Ross at Play
REP

@Switch Blayde

I don't think anyone would read it differently if it were either "lesser-known" or "lesser known


I can see how someone might read the two items differently. The original phrase was Three lesser known Archtypes. To me:

Three lesser-known Archtypes very clearly indicates 3 archtypes that people are not as familiar with in respect to the more common archtypes.

Three lesser known Archtypes has a degree of ambiguity in that the phrase can be rephrased to mean 3 of the known archtypes are lesser than the others – however, lesser in what context? Less used, less accepted, less approved of, etc.

Switch Blayde

@REP

Three lesser known Archtypes has a degree of ambiguity in that the phrase can be rephrased to mean 3 of the known archtypes are lesser than the others – however, lesser in what context? Less used, less accepted, less approved of, etc.


That's why I don't see any ambiguity. What's the context? — Known.

3 of the known archtypes are lesser [known] than the others

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

Then Grammar Girl was just covering up her mistake by pointing out the ambiguity statement in CMOS. After all, her real job is a professional editor.

That is, sadly, the conclusion I came to.

Capt. Zapp

@REP

The original phrase was Three lesser known Archtypes.


The original phrase was:

Three More Lesser Known Archetypes, from WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®.


thus the ambiguity of 'More Lesser".

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

You may be right. But I found in the past I was hyphenating a lot of words and it looked clumsy. I thought they stood out. So I only put them in to make something clear.

Since none of us are required to follow CMOS, we're free to use your 'common-sense' solution, which is to only use the hyphen when it's necessary. However, Ross seems to be correct, that Grammar girl didn't read the entire quoted section, only reading part but not the previously mentioned qualifier.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

there is another exception I have not mentioned above that should not be hyphenated. Proper nouns, e.g. United States, do not need to be hyphenated. The capital letters have the effect of grouping words as an indivisible unit that otherwise would require hyphens.

Does that means it's okay to use:

"Turn off those figgin' NOISE CANCELLING HEADPHONES, you jerk!"

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

If an author thinks they may be hyphenating too often, they should probably look at whether they are hyphenating some things that aren't truly compound adjectives.

I prefer a 'shoot-from-the-hip' rule for commas, trying to preserve the flow of speech, removing some commas to improve the flow of the story while interjecting extras to indicate natural pauses in how a sentence is spoken.

I only do it (hopefully) in dialogue, but feel it helps the overall story, rather than producing unnecessary confusion. While it bugs the grammar experts (like my editors), I think my readers appreciate the common-sense interpretations.

Crumbly Writer

@Capt. Zapp

The original phrase was:

Three More Lesser Known Archetypes, from WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®.

thus the ambiguity of 'More Lesser".

The easier solution: "Three Additional Lesser Known Archetypes, from Writers (sometimes) Helping Writers®.

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