I'm trying to fit in final editing of Tomorrowville (the novel, not the blog) between extended bouts of programming, and it doesn't fit well. The programming is complicated, and you need to breathe it during all your waking hours, and dream about it a bit, too. The program I'm writing has to call a commercial optimization routine. Here's a sample of the instructions for the data arrays I need to pass to that product:
If matbeg, matcnt, and matind are non-empty, the array matval contains the nonzero coefficients grouped by column (ie all coefficients for the same variable are consecutive). matbeg(i) contains the index in matval of the first coefficient for column i. matcnt contains the number of coefficients in column i. Note that the indices in matbeg must be in ascending order. Each entry matind(i) is the row number of the corresponding coefficient in matval(i).
There. About as clear as a passage in one of John Hawkes' early novels--and yet dull. You might think that impenetrable and boring are hard to achieve at the same time, and you might be right. But they sure aren't fun together.
Anyhow, I've stolen a little time for my editing. And my editor is great. But we seem to disagree on one topic: Hyphens.
Now, I don't care for them. I use them when they are required to form a compound adjective from two erstwhile nouns, as in "dirt-bike riders", and I can appreciate that they are needed in Tom Wolfe's Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby. But, in truth, I prefer to collapse them into a single word when possible.
For instance, I prefer "crosslegged" to "cross-legged." At one time, "cross-legged" was preferred; now, dictionaries are neutral on the subject. I suspect that in the near future, "crosslegged" will be the preferred form. English is a Germanic tongue, and the tendency is to smunch words together. We have even generally gone from "co-operation" to "cooperation," despite the weird-looking and unphonetic "coop" at the start.
Moreover, I think hyphens are most appropriate when you are putting together an unlikely combination of words. When they occur together so frequently as to be a single word, they should consider losing the hyphen. For example, everyone writes "bullheaded" rather than "bull-headed." "Dim-wit" and "dim-witted" have undergone the same gradual compaction.
And I write "hamhanded" rather than "ham-handed." Writing "ham-handed" not only looks cluttered to me, but seems as if I am suggesting that I've arrived at an enchanting new phrase, when in fact I'm deploying it as a single, obvious word.
My editor disagrees. She thinks that "narcoterrorist" is confusing to the reader. while "narco-terrorist" isn't. (Ironic note: "Narcoterrorist" entered English as a single, unhyphenated word; it was coined in the early 1980s by the President of Peru.)
Hyphens. What say you, dear readers?