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August 1978

Hyphens and En Dashes

Arch Dermatol. 1978;114(8):1243. doi:10.1001/archderm.1978.01640200091036

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To the Editor.—  "Anti-basal-cell antibody" is an improvement on the "antibasal cell antibody" that Dr Edward Shmunes says he originally wrote (Arch Dermatol 114:125, 1978), and it is far better than "antibasal cell antibody," to which the term was changed by the manuscript editor.Neither Dr Shmunes's version nor Dr Spatz's, however, is ideal: both are a little ambiguous. What is needed is to attach "anti" to "basal-cell," not just to "basal." This can be done, not by using a hyphen, but by using the slightly longer (and unhappily, largely forgotten) en dash. The result looks like this: anti-basal-cell antibody. And any reader can see that it means an antibody against basal cells.The en dash is also needed, and almost never used, to connect a two-word expression with another of either one or two words, eg, periodic acid-Schiff, which is a mysterious expression—especially if the first word (pair·eye·o·dic)

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