Monday, April 12, 2010

Babysitter Gets Suspended Sentence

Last week, Abby brought home from school a flyer pitching after-school classes. The description of one of the courses, for Babysitter's Training, was maggoty with errors, including this concluding advisory:

Bring a nut and candy free lunch

Without the help of some hyphens, this sentence is open to misinterpretation. Should I bring a single nut, along with a lunch that is free of candy? A free lunch consisting of nuts and candy? Neither, actually, because, as a middle-aged dad who is most emphatically not a babysitter, I won't be attending at all.

In any case, the construction to be used here is
"a nut- and candy-free lunch."* That's right--with this baby, you get not just the gratifying clarity of employing hyphens, but also the spine-tingling frisson of satisfaction that comes from firing off a suspended hyphen, which, as we all know, is the most exciting hyphen of all.

Earlier in the description, there is another missing hyphen, when we are advised that participants receive a "personalized wallet size completion card," but I'm inclined to let that one go simply because I was amused by the image of a 12-year-old pig-tailed kid flipping open her Hello Kitty wallet with a dramatic flourish to flash her official Babysitter's Training credentials.

*Note the space after the first hyphen and the absence of a hyphen following and.