F@&ing Compound Modifiers

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We placed our setups in 60'-plus semicircles
We: We don't like this apostrophe, but we're not sure if it should be Feet or Foot.

Our Boss: That's why I put the apostrophe there instead.

We: But what should it be?

Our Boss: I don't know--that's why I put the apostrophe there instead.

We: We're going to find out--and we're gonna change it.

Our Boss: Go ahead, I'll stet it anyway.

We: If you do, it'll be the most shameful stet you'll ever make.

Turns out it should be "foot" because it's a compound modifier. What's a compound modifier? About $1.50! Ha ha!

But seriously, compound modifiers are those confusing multi-word adjectival or adverbial phrases with all the hyphens, like longer-lasting or step-by-step or state-of-the-art, that everyone pretty much ignores. In fact, if it weren't for Roger Ebert pointing out their misuse in movie titles, no one would even know about them.

When you're dealing with modifiers that use units of measurement, like we are in the phrase 60'-plus, the unit is always singular--so inch instead of inches, hour instead of hours, and, in our example, foot instead of feet.

So we rewrite the sentence as
We placed our setups in 60-foot-plus semicircles