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Perishing Hyphens! Try Telling that to the Germans...

eebee's picture

And the international business-gap widens! I just saw this Yahoo! article by Simon Rabinovitch, about the new Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Hyphens are just a pesky inconvenience. Unless you're German, in which case you'll have plenty of Know-how about Inline-Skates, Global-Villages and Home-Banking, not to mention most urls: www.hohenloher-night-skating.de, and www.bodensee-skating.de, or www.bmw-motorrad.com, etc.

Per Rabinovitch, the English reason for ditching the hyphen in many cases: 

"...factor in the hyphen's demise is designers' distaste for its ungainly horizontal bulk between words."

Well nobody likes ungainly horizontal bulk, that's for sure!

"The hyphen has been squeezed as informal ways of communicating, honed in text messages and emails, spread on Web sites and seep into newspapers and books"

And contrarywise, I have perceived an increase in hyphens in the German language, especially with and largely due to email, websites and general internet use since the 1990s. However, in the short time I have to write this, I haven't found anything to back that up, so it remains my opinion for now.

American businessfolk around me still shake their heads when they see generously-hyphenated German urls. I'm not picking on the Germans...this is simply an area in which I have experience. Any other countries out there doing something like this with punctuation, I wonder?


roadskater's picture

Dr. Skateylove: How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Hyphen

OK I couldn't resist eebee's note. We've talked about this for years as I've picked website names and we've looked at the different styles of URLs in the USA and Deutschland. For a long time I was anti-hyphen, and I still am in things skateylove and mudluscious and lots more. Thanks to e.e. cummings for that! I still prefer leaving out hyphens for URLs for several reasons, and one quick one is how hard it can be to get a hyphen typed into a phone or other limited interface. Mostly they just are not pretty. But there's one great reason, or two (or is it part of the one) at least (trouble at the mill), for expecting a return to the love of hyphenated URLs:

1. SEO or Search Engine Optimization, otherwise unhyphenated Blakenated as getting some googlove. Google and the others (GooYahMsnAsk) like those hyphens as they make it easier to find the words in the URL. Please note dear readers that this site uses hyphens in the URLs based on the titles of articles, and happily so as it increases our Googlove indeed.

More 1. The domain name part of the URL is tricky when buying domain names. Do you get one that's SEO happy or Human friendly? And in what way human friendly...typing or seeing with the eyes in type on a page or screen? It's mostly fashion. However, I recently wished for and barely missed skatehudson.com (to use it for photos of skate trips along the Hudson River Valley) and realized it contained Kate Hudson within. Not a bad thing. In fact a fun thing. A great tee shirt thing.

Short on domain name junkie cash, I waited a few days and it was gone. Oops. While I was watching all of this, having missed the name, the page went up with a temporary in construction page that had ads on it. The ads were more about Kate Hudson than Skating in the Hudson River Valley.

I love the ambiguity, but back to SEO, and hyphens make it clearer to a machine and to some humans what the name means. I, domain name junkie, say, buy both with and without. But as USAmerican style is without hyphens, if you can't get what you want without hyphens, remember it may still be available hyphenated.

I think style will move in the hyphenated direction because of the frequent use of hyphens in long URLs as mentioned above. Still, my view is that domain names are for typing and article URLs are for clicking, and most hyphens are not so pretty in type, so unhyphenated still wins but by a lower margin than before SEO was a factor.

Now to the world's other problems. Or maybe I should start with a few of my own?

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