Monday, August 17, 2009


Well this is the sort of thing I would have previously sent to my father. So now you get to play proxy: just enjoy the answers from the fine folks over at the Chicago Manual of Style Online. I'd like to get them and the desk jockeys who write the headlines at The Atlantic together for a cruel proofing tea party.

Hyphens, En Dashes, Em Dashes

Q. In a scholarly book about popular culture, the author has used several -esque word endings, usually hyphenated. According to CMOS instructions for the similar constructions of -wide, -like, and -borne, I would be inclined to remove the hyphen. But the result is unsavory. Also, in the case of open compounds, should the -esque ending acquire an en dash? See the following: Tarantinoesque, Skeeteresque, Gandalfesque, Billy Idolesque, Sid Vicious–like, John Paul–esque, The Parallax View–esque.

A. Unsavory indeed. (Your list should appear on the book jacket—who wouldn’t want to know what the pope is doing in the middle of all the carnage?) The rule is that unless the usage is self-consciously playful, you may have two -esques per book (no hyphens), but only if they are at least a hundred pages apart. If they involve en dashes, however, you get none.