a) "According to the report, Harvard is the highest rated university." or
b) "According to the report, Harvard is the highest-rated university."

Which and why?
More generally, what is the principle behind correct usage of the dash?

Is "dash" the best term for this punctuation?
Does one dash "compound words" or what?
Thanks!
Joseph
1 2
a) "According to the report, Harvard is the highest rateduniversity." or b) "According to the report, Harvard is the highest-rateduniversity." ... usage of thedash? Is "dash" the best term for this punctuation? Does one dash "compound words" or what? Thanks! Joseph

Highest and rated are seperate words and are not hyphenated.
The purpose of the dash, which in this case I'd say is a hyphen, is to show that 'highest' qualifies 'rated' and not 'university'. The writer was perhaps concerned that his reader might otherwise think that Harvard was, in some undisclosed ordering system (perhaps of geophysical altitude), higher than all other rated universities, whereas he wanted to make it clear that the ordering was by 'rating', whatever that meant.

I hope that's clear now.

Paul
In bocca al Lupo!
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Joseph Turian wrote on 06 Mar 2005:
a) "According to the report, Harvard is the highest rated university." or b) "According to the report, Harvard is the ... correct usage of the dash? Is "dash" the best term for this punctuation? Does one dash "compound words" or what?

One sometimes or often hyphenates compound words, but not always. In this case, according to the Chcago Manual of Style, 14th ed., one does not because it is not a source of ambiguity or other kinds of misunderstanding.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor
For email, replace numbers with English alphabet.
"I'm not tempted to write a song about George W.Bush. I couldn't figure out what sort of song I would write. That's the problem: I don't want to satirise George Bush and his puppeteers, I want to vaporise them." Tom Lehrer.
a) "According to the report, Harvard is the highest rated university." or b) "According to the report, Harvard is the ... usage of the dash? Is "dash" the best term for this punctuation? Does one dash "compound words" or what? Thanks!

Writing: A College Handbook fourth edition says (slightly paraphrased):

Use a hyphen to form a compound adjective:
world-famous
ten-foot pole
...is a well-known movie director
Twentieth-century writers include...
Do not use a hyphen:
a. Between an adjective and a noun in a noun phrase: The twentieth century will soon come to an end.
b. In a compound predicate adjective:
Spike Lee is well known.
c. In compounds made with an adverb ending in -ly, such as "widely held."
Generally, use a hyphen in a compound noun when both items serve as nouns: city-state
poet-critic
teacher-scholar
Generally, use no hyphen when the first noun serves as an adjective modifying the second:
stone wall
city hall
master chef
police officer
Mike G.
Seems we've found an auer even less knowledgeable than I am. :-)

When an adjective is modified by an adjective the two words are hyphenated. This is to show that there is only one modification of the noun.

"highest-rated university"
Adrian
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
a) "According to the report, Harvard is the highest rated university." or b) "According to the report, Harvard is the highest-rated university." Which and why?

Usage varies, as you probably noticed even before perusing this thread.
The situation we are dealing with here is: a word ("highest") that can be either an adjective or an adverb, but in this case is an adverb, modifying an adjective (in the broad sense, to include participles such as "rated"), which in turn modifies a noun ("university").

One traditional rule, which I follow unless paid to do otherwise, is to hyphenate the adverb to the adjective when the combination stands before the noun it modifies (highest-rated university), but not in predicate (it is the highest rated). The reason for the hyphen is to make it immediately clear that "highest" is an adverb and not another adjective modifying the noun, as in (say) "the highest bearable temperature". There is no point in such a hyphen when the first word can only be an adverb, as in "a highly recommended university"; but you will often see such adverbs hyphenated in unedited writing.

The rule is often stated in terms of whether the adverb does or does not end in -ly rather than whether it cannot or can be an adjective, but that, IMO, misses the point. There are adverbs not ending in -ly that cannot be adjectives, and putting a hyphen in "an often heard remark" is as pointless as putting one in "a frequently heard remark". Contrariwise, there are words ending in -ly that can be either adjectives or adverbs, and accordingly "a kindly-meant remark" deserves its hyphen as much as "a well-meant remark".

In recent years, some style books have abandoned such discrimination altogether and specified treating the hyphen as a desperate remedy to be used only where actual misreading is possible.
More generally, what is the principle behind correct usage of the dash?

Depends on whom you ask.
Is "dash" the best term for this punctuation?

No. It is properly called a hyphen. A dash (or, more specifically, an em dash) is the mark that sets off part of a sentence as an emphatic parenthesis like this. In typewriting or ASCII, it is usually represented by two hyphens, with or without space, as I have done here; but in print it is a distinct character, much longer and a little thinner than a hyphen. That distinction used to be widely enough known that Fred Allen could say on the radio "As one hyphen said to the other hyphen, let's get together and make a dash", but that seems to be no longer so. (There is also something in between, called an en dash, but it is not taught in school, and its mysteries are confined to the typographically sophisticated.)
Joe Fineman joe (Email Removed)
a) "According to the report, Harvard is the highest rated university." or b) "According to the report, Harvard is the highest-rated university." Which and why?

Neither, that would be Oxford :-)
a) "According to the report, Harvard is the highest rateduniversity." or b) "According to the report, Harvard is the highest-rateduniversity." ... correct usage of the dash? Is "dash" the best term for this punctuation? Does one dash "compound words" or what?

I have personally and with my bare hands killed several website designers who called hyphens "dashes". Judges being, on the whole, literate individuals, I have on each occasion walked from Court a free man without a stain on my character and with some complimentary words from the Bench.
Mike.
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Show more