Friday, August 10, 2007

Worse-Than-Expected English

If the Straits Times is supposed to be the standard-bearer of good English in Singapore, this is not always obvious. Every single day there are elementary errors in its pages, whether print or electronic, and it is not too hard to spot them.

In the above, from the online version (10.8.07), the hyphens in the adverb phrase, faster-than-expected, are wrong. Any of the following would be an improvement:

Economy Grows Faster Than Expected
Economic Growth (Is) Faster Than Expected
Economy Grows More Rapidly Than Expected

Hyphens are needed only in attributive adjective phrases — that is, adjective phrases that come before the head noun within a noun phrase.

To illustrate, in the noun phrase faster-than-expected economic growth, we have two adjectives, the compound faster-than-expected and the simple economic. Together, they modify the head noun, growth. The hyphens serve to indicate that the three words faster, than and expected function jointly as a single adjective.

Likewise, we write the three-year-old boy — but The boy is three years old.


klubster said...


popped in the other time but I didn't have time to comment. I find your posts interesting and funny. In fact while reading your posts, I can imagine your voice as you write in the same style as your speech.

Keep up the gd work!


The Grammar Terrorist said...

Thanks for your very kind comments! Oh dear, I'm not exactly enamoured of my own voice so I'm sorry I carry it into my writing ;--)