I assume that the spell-checking feature in most software applications is driven by some kind of dictionary or other controlled vocabulary. The user can usually add to this list or import a custom dictionary, but the stock set of “acceptable” words comes standard. Now, I understand that different organizations call for different hyphenation usage standards, so I’m not usually surprised when I’m typing and it flags an otherwise perfectly cromulent1 hyphenated word.

And look: “pre-conference” isn’t a word that’s difficult to parse or understand, but I can well imagine it being a word that a stock spellcheck dictionary wouldn’t contain2.

I was surprised, however, to find the following recommendations:


How are those reasonable substitutes? They’re utterly nonsensical. Further, and perhaps more importantly, if a “pee-conference” isn’t a convention of urologists, I think I’ll just stay home.

Bob Kasenchak, Project Coordinator
Access Innovations


1. Cromulent: Fine, acceptable or normal; excellent, realistic, legitimate or authentic (The Simpsons, Season 7, Episode 16, “Lisa the Iconoclast”; original air date 2/18/1996).

2. Although, were it up to me, any valid word with a common hyphenated prefix (e.g., “pre-“ or “post-“ or “anti-“) would be allowed. Obviously.