If you’ve ever watched a man eating lobster, a number of things might have run through your mind — anything from “that looks delicious” to “thank heavens they gave that guy a bib” to “they should have given him a poncho.”
But it probably never occurred to you just how close you were to mortal danger — how just the finest of fine lines was the only thing standing between you and a homicidal monster.
Yet as you stood watching the man eating lobster, you were just one little hyphen away from a man-eating lobster.
Hyphens can make a huge difference in your meaning. But, truth be told, those situations are rare. Often hyphens are optional. Yet they’re still difficult. The rules are hard to decipher. Worse, no two editors hyphenate alike. So a reader trying to learn by example can end up extremely confused.