In the TV game show "Wheel of Fortune," it’s possible to buy a vowel for $250. I’m currently researching how much a hyphen might cost. I recently have been traveling, so this letter isn’t as timely as I’d like, but the tardiness has little to do with the point I’d like to make.
This letter relates to a Tribune email blast from Jan. 27. My wife and were out of town, but curious about what was happening back in North Dakota — we had heard that bad weather was moving in. I then saw the Tribune Breaking News email on my phone that said “No travel advisory for western North Dakota.” I said to my wife, “Guess the bad weather didn’t materialize as I see they didn’t issue a travel advisory.”
She seemed surprised, and commented that she had been following Facebook, and the comments there were just the opposite. I showed her my message and said, “Read this — it clearly says NO (my emphasis) travel advisory!” Interestingly, she read the same passage to mean that there indeed was a travel advisory. Now, I only got a C in English, and that was many years ago, but it seems to me, if this was to mean that there was a travel advisory it would have been written “no-travel advisory.” Something called a compound adjective I believe.
Now you might say this is just nitpicking, or maybe nit-picking, but in cases like this, bad writing can have real-world consequences. Had I been in Bismarck, planning a trip to western North Dakota and received this email, I just might have taken off on the trip. How much does a hyphen cost?
Gus Mueller, Bismarck