I mention compound adjectives occasionally; here’s a good example of the difference in meaning when you hyphenate or don’t hyphenate.
Sometimes you have two or more modifiers before a noun. If the first word refers to the next one, you hyphenate them and they function as one word. If they separately refer to the noun, don’t hyphenate.
She is correct! To have “big” refer to the mosquitoes, it should be “big-mosquito lake.”
PS—yes, “mosquito” is a noun, not an adjective. But it’s being used as an adjective. We call this using the noun attributively.
The comic is about grammar, so go ahead; read it and chuckle. My lesson, though, is in the last panel.
We call it direct address when you name the person (or persons—or readers, shall we say) whom you are writing to. Sometimes I start a post with, “Our lesson for today, class, is…” That’s direct address.
Here’s the rule, in case the rule isn’t already obvious:
Separate direct address from the rest of the sentence with commas.
Of course, the plural, “commas,” applies only if the direct address is inside the sentence. If it’s the first or last word, you need only one comma. duh.
PS—wouldn’t you know, the comic repeated the same joke a week later:
A little more than a month ago I wrote about the dieresis, two dots over a vowel that you very occasionally see in English (though more often in other languages).
The New Yorker is a high-class magazine, so I’m not entirely surprised that they had occasion to use a dieresis. Here it is:
SpaceShipTwo needed to be supple enough to break the sound barrier, light enough to reach space, strong enough to avoid breaking up on reëntry, and tough enough to make the journey once a week for years.
Stucky hadn’t heard from Dillon in almost a year, and had been desperate to reëstablish contact.
Notice how you pronounce the two “e’s” separately? That’s the function of a dieresis.
Pictures are good, so here’s a picture of SpaceShipTwo:
Remember in grade school or high school science class when you put a magnet under a piece of paper and sprinkled iron filings on the paper to see the lines of force?
Magnetic fields ain’t got lines of force! Magnetism is a field, and fields are smooth. Those lines you saw are a result of smearing the iron particles around, and they’re a handy (and artificial) way to visualize the direction of the magnetism. If you were to draw lines showing equal strength (analogous to contour lines on a topographical map), they’d be perpendicular to those lines everybody mentions. Here are a few examples of someone using both terms interchangeably. He’s being imprecise.
Jets of hot plasma, propelled by a bunch of magnetic field lines, rise from a small sunspot roughly the size of China.
If all goes well, the spacecraft—safe in the shadow of the shield—will beam back a record of the corona’s plasma and the tangled net of magnetic fields that shape it.
Earth’s magnetic field deflects most solar wind particles
Researchers have proposed two mechanisms by which magnetic fields could turn kinetic energy from the sun’s roiling surface into coronal heat
Quotes from an article emailed to me by a friend. The writer is Joshua Sokol, a journalist based in Boston
You’re not likely to write expositorily about magnetism very often, but be sure you get it right when you do.