18 responses to “Pre-emptive Strike!

  1. I think it’s trick-or-treaters. Without the hyphens, “welcome trick or treaters” would suggest that either a single trick or a group of treaters are welcome … and I’m pretty sure that’s not what Rona and Dennis have in mind! :-)

  2. furpurrson is right. One must hyphenate, because: joining the words using hyphens creates a single complex substantive “trick-or-treater” and enables the particle “er”, which now suffixes the entire compound, to impart agency to “trick” as, without the hyphens, it did only to “treat”.

  3. Agreed and agreed.

  4. I’m not saying that the hyphens are wrong, but wouldn’t the lack of a comma also create a single, complex substantive? (Isn’t that comma needed after “single” there?)


  5. Whoopos – I should have said “the lack of commas”.

  6. (I’m not LEN.) I thought the landlords intentionally omitted the commas so that Kate could “vandalize” the sign.

  7. Anonymous brings up a good point. Adding a comma would make it clear that trick-or-treaters are actually being welcomed; without a comma, “welcome” could be read as an adjective modifying “trick-or-treaters” rather than a verb. But then, all over the place you see signs – e.g., outside convention centers – that say:
    You just have to know that “welcome” is a verb. Otherwise it’s possible that Welcome is part of the company name, or even that there’s an implied possibility some other company might not be quite so warmly received … ;-)

  8. “without a comma, “welcome” could be read as an adjective modifying “trick-or-treaters” rather than a verb.”

    Nothing wrong with that, though, is there? For instance, what about something like “Trespassing Forbidden.” Same principle, isn’t it?

    Thus, “Trick-or-treaters [are] Welcome [here]” as opposed to a greeting, i.e. “Trick-or-treaters: Welcome!” The communicated intent’s the same, as far as I can tell.

  9. Actually, I was referring to “Trick, or Treaters, Welcome!” since a non-hyphenated Trick-or-Treaters would mean (to me) that “or Treaters” was parenthetical unless the intent was to create a single, complex substantive (hence my original comment).


  10. (I’m the 10 a.m. anon.) A comma still needs to be placed between “Hi” and “Kate.”

  11. (I mean 10-a.m. anon.)

  12. In response to the question (by Anonymous or Len at 10:04) of whether in “single complex substantive” a comma should be inserted after “single”: it depends on how you perceive “complex substantive.”

    (1)If you hear it as a noun preceded by its modifier, then you will hear “single” as a second modifier and separate the two characteristics of “substantive” by putting a comma between them: “single, complex …”

    (2) If you hear “complex substantive” as a two-word substantive [like "fur cap"] and “single” as it’s modifier [like "old fur cap"] you wouldn’t dream of breaking it up with a comma.

    Be it noted: you might add attributes endlessly ["stinky old fur cap"] without employing a single comma, as long as the result continued to be a single complex substantive [rather than a cap which happens for the moment to be furry and also old and also stinky: "a stinky, old, fur(ry), cap".]
    Contrast that with “It’s going to be a long, hot summer.” Most writers would (in the ears of their mind) hear “long” and “hot” as “coordinate adjectives” and punctuate accordingly, depicting a summer that is both a long one and a hot one (rather than the entity “hot summer” with the incidental attribute of “long”). Likewise: “She is a dear, good person.” But: “…the traditional political exercises of election year…” etc.

  13. Are Rona and Dennis the same Rona and Dennis who used to rent from my grandmother Lucille?

  14. g.r.,

    Thanks for the the explanation! Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite resolve my problem since I’m really not sure if “complex substantive” should sound like (1) or (2) :-) It may be that I learned what a substantive was [ahem] years ago in 8th or 9th grade English – or in Latin a year or two later – but I’ve long since forgotten the formal definition. I did intuit enough to understand what the gist of your original comment (and I’ve since looked up “substantive”), but I still don’t know if “complex substantive” is equivalent to a “fur hat”. I can hear both options, in other words.


  15. I agree with g.r.’s position not to put a comma in “a single complex substantive”, because in this context, “single” is synonymous to “one”, thus: “one complex substantive”.

    But I don’t agree with you in the stinky-old-fur-cap-matter (hyphenated, ha, ha, ha). I think there should be a comma after “stinky”, because “stinky” doesn’t modify the adjective “old”. “Stinky” and “old” are rather a short listing of qualities that refer to the fur cap.
    You can test this by adding “and”: “a stinky and old fur cap”. If this makes sense, a comma is needed. If it doesn’t, there’s no comma, e.g.: “She’s telling the same old story over and over again”.

  16. Dennis Fischman

    smabel, yes, we are! I’d be happy to hear from you.

  17. I just happened to revisit these comments now, over a week later, and notice junior alien’s rule, which is infallible: if and only if your ear says you can insert “and”, you should insert a comma.

  18. stating the obvious


    Here is Kate’s NPR radio interview. If you still think this girl knows ANYTHING about grammar after listening to this, and you don’t think she’s anything less than egotistical, pretentious, self-promoting, and just plain ridiculous, there is something wrong with you. Just because you put some comma and apostrophe stickers on some signs, doesn’t make you a “grammar vandal.” What credentials does she have to viciously attack anyones grammar? She can barely answer the simple questions answered in this interview! It’s great how she goes silent after every question, and seems to ask her interviewer if her answers are correct. Pathetic. No one has perfect grammar, as we see in this blog. No one. And Especially not Kate. So, enough with this crap. Enough with this bashing blog! The people have spoken in ALL of her comments. Enough is enough, Kate.

    (oh, and I know you won’t answer this post, because you’re too good for that, just like your “favorite bloggers.” Like…Perez Hilton. Laughable.)

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