I presume that this is what happened because a) she has a paperback & eBook edition of this book, b) this happens a lot, and c) someone complained. I would hope that Amazon would do a search in the eBook and not only look at the total hyphens, but also find a few examples of words that were probably broken up for print layout reasons. If so the author should remove the hyphens and resubmit the eBook.
If that's not the case, it's very silly. Obviously hyphens are useful and shouldn't be banned.
That would have side-effects e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double-barrelled_name
Or have to quote transliterated Arabic, for that matter.
[edit: It appears, though, that the author is stylistically abusing hyphens, so while they may not be wrong, they're grating to most readers. So, should Amazon be in the business of banning books on the grounds of poor style, rather than technical grounds that are inarguable? (If the book contained the word hyphen-ated, that would be wrong unless it was dialogue and the speaker was pausing between syllables.)]
Graeme merely asserts that his book was free of those, which we knew going in. It does nothing to say why Amazon was raising the issue, and it wouldn't shock me that an automated system would be unable to tell the difference.
Btw, the author's name appears to be "Graeme", which seems to always be male:
"One of them picked up what looked like a dog's hind-leg and put it in a white plastic bag."
"With the two-week Easter holiday just over a month away, ..."
"The woman's white hair was hidden by a red-head scarf, ..."
"The door of one of the expensive motor-homes opened ..."
Seems to me Amazon may have a point about some of his use of hyphens.
But you're correct that the others examples are erroneous, some egregiously so. I had to read the "red-head scarf" several times before I was finally able to parse out the presumed meaning: "red headscarf".
1. Source: me. I worked for 10 years as a translator, editor, and proofreader for Lionbridge and many other multinational publishing and localization companies before moving into software development.
Wrong according to whom?
We're not talking about writers for a newspaper or magazine, where everyone is expected to adhere to a single style for the sake of uniformity.
James Joyce did a number of things "wrong" both grammatically and stylistically, but that was part of the artistic expression. It's weird, to say the least, for a bookstore to enforce style. When I walk into a physical bookstore, I expect that the bookstore has made some decisions around book placement for the sake of optimizing sales, and books that have bad grammar may not be as attractive. But I don't expect that they have made decisions directly based on the grammar of the books ("we dislike the way you use punctuation, so we're going to put your book in the back of the store, or take it off the shelves altogether").
Amazon is now trying to eliminate the need for publishers, but in that process we should be clear not to conflate the role of the publishers (which includes editing) and the role of the marketplace.
 Incidentally, most brick & mortar bookstores are organized by genre and then either title or author name, so the extent to which they can even 'demote' books is generally limited to the ability to place books "cover out" instead of "spine out". With the exception of keeping adult-themed books in a special section and promoting certain books in a themed display (e.g. "Staff Picks for Summertime Reads"), bookstores don't really take heavy action against books based on content.
When Joyce published his first novel as a nobody, people like you would've said something equally thoughtless about his grammar, followed up by a glib "the writer is no Arthur Conan Doyle."
And to be clear I mean asking about specific instances, so don't point back at the blog post, which seems to be a case of Amazon making a mistake. All of the hyphens quoted from Moonstruck are grammatically correct.
I do think it is difficult for anyone other than the author to answer that question though. For me, only the "red-head scarf" example would be a mistake, but others in this thread indicated that 3 or 4 of the examples were wrong for them.
According to the customer who complained about them (who is, after all, the person with the money), and anyone else who's familiar with standard English usage.
Consciously choosing to break the rules and breaking them because you don't know any better are two different things.
There is a time honoured tradition regarding what to do if you have money and don't like the artistic style of the author, and "demand their publisher pulls the book or forces the author to change their style to suit you" isn't it. (Not to mention all the happy customers who gave the book 4 & 5 star ratings and didn't complain, who are, after all, also people with money)
And how did Amazon decided on which was the reason for his actions?
"There could be no-one there, ..."
"...into a razor-filled muzzle ..."
"... sleep, muscular, brown-furred monster."
"... through her blood-soaked fur."
"... propelled backwards in mid-leap, ..."
"... the red-haired woman ..."
"... a tall, grey-haired man ..."
Not my style of fiction, but most of these don't offend my sense of grammar either. I think "mid-leap" is the only one that slightly jars.
I guess it causes issues with bad screen readers.
That's incorrect, isn't it? It's reinforcing the potential confusion that the hyphen is meant to avoid. Unless she really was wearing a red scarf made from someone's head?
There are some exceptions: e.g., I've read you should always write "Douglas-fir" instead of "Douglas fir" because it's not actually a fir.
red-head scarf might suggest that the flairs at the end of the scarf are red, and that it just a normal scarf https://www.google.ca/search?safe=off&tbm=isch
where as a red head-scarf would be a red... head scarf. https://www.google.ca/search?q=head+scarf&tbm=isch
Dunno. Needs more context frankly.
"Are there people out there so fucking mind-bogglingly stupid that the inclusion of a – between two words confuses them enough to be torn from the story and ruin the reading experience so much that they felt obliged to write to Amazon and complain?"
I think that the author insulting someone who have paid for his book is not something intelligent, nice or professional.
"Do they need to do something about the quality of the ebooks on their device? Oh yes. Absolutely no question about it."
I was going to argue freedom of speech and the ability to form ideas the way the author intended is what matters here, but the author himself doesn't seem to agree himself.
That's fairly straight up UK english hyperbole. Calling the author stupid and unprofessional because you're unfamiliar with the way UK english works is a trifle unfair.
Edit: I'm specifically talking about being unfamiliar with that style of hyperbole here. I am not defending the hyphenation. That's why I didn't mention the hyphenation at all originally. But apparently that wasn't enough, so now I'm explicitly saying I wasn't talking about the thing I didn't mention. Hope That Helps, Have A Nice Day.
I see no reason not to insist on some kind of quality here. We're not talking about poetic license or writing to reflect a dialect, we're talking about the author believing hyphens are correct for a given passage. In the vast majority of his usage, his beliefs are incorrect, and his lack of grammatical awareness (enforced by his own post) is making for a bad reading experience.
I'm also of the opinion that if I'm reading a book with such egregiously awful editing, I'd stop reading it, rather than ask for corrections. If the editing is bad, are the ideas any better?
Is the phrase "self published" really correct for Amazon and others to use? It could be argued that Amazon is the one publishing it, and they're really letting you bypass the editors and sales reps from a print-based publishing house to get your works onto Kindles.
I really don't know. The situation makes me uncomfortable as a creator of content, certainly, but the author's railing against the company for protecting its customers and defending against liability from credit card issuers ... That just feels like someone bitching out of a sense of entitlement, and history shows (all over the world) that people who thoughtlessly feel entitled are rarely able to be convinced that they, in fact, are the ones that need to change.
His piss-poor use of hyphens (see what I did there?), however, isn't hyperbole. Hyperbole is a rhetorical device (and the greatest thing ever!), and unless he intended to evoke an emotional response in his readers by their incorrect and non-poetic application, it's just bad form; Being from the UK has bugger all to do with it.
The example he gives is of auto-generated books uploaded for the purpose of gaming algorithms for profit. I'm as much a free-speech fundamentalist as the next guy, but that is no more a free speech issue than the Nigerian governor emailing me the unique opportunity to take a cut of $80,000,000 worth of penis enlargement pills.
But I digress.
For example, spellcheck has a curly red underline right now. But would it really look better as spell-check?
At least, this is what I've been told by a very picky guy...
It's a poor QC process, not a stylistic or editorial review.
EDIT: Downvotes, but I'm sorry, I don't WANT to explain how it makes sense to expend more time and money on customers and suppliers that are a _million_ times more valuable to one's business.
Traditionally there was the copy editing process done by the publisher, but automating this on a the-customer-is-always-right process would probably have left a lot of hard to digest classics no where to be found.
And seriously? Running a work of literature against a dictionary for other reasons than supervised spell-checking?
Literature is about expressiveness not about serfdom to grammar or spelling.
What about Neologisms? There would be no nerds without inventive authors like Seuss.
There surely still is a need for copy editing, proper formatting and layout, which was almost never done by the author alone, and also requires a different skill set than that of a typical author. These are the services a publisher should offer, but doing this without involving the author for final approval is just false.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sic and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stet
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malapropism also Cacography
The author's "flavor" appears to be "hyphen-happy" - do you believe his intent was to style his writing that way for dramatic or artistic effect?
Then there were the so called (vanity) self-publishing houses who more or less capitalized on the rejects, while asking for a quite significant amount of money first to print and rudimentary, if at all, edit whatever the author offered. Here the gatekeepeíng factor to the public was how much money you had to spare to get your books printed and listed.
Nowadays with digital publishing the initial production costs are so low, that suddenly copy editing and proofreading by a person other than the author becomes a significant part of the costs, which it wasn't before, since that cost was dwarfed by the actual printing costs and was normally considered a given.
With no money to spare for third-party editors/proofreaders/layout this job is outsourced to algorithms and mechanical Turks with questionable results.
I suggest the best way to improve quality and acceptance of self-published work, is to actually pay a professional third-party person to proofread and copy edit your book first in a joint effort with the author. Only after that you should submit your work to a digital publisher. If amazon then still rejects this, based on customer complaints than we have an actual problem at hand which is not just the absence of any kind of human copy editing.
Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.
— Mark Twain
Based on my limited experience, people who think grammar Nazis are annoying shouldn't be suspected of being too intelligent.
A great example is "red-head scarf"; what you read is "(read head) scarf" what it means is "red (head scarf)". Granted, it makes the wording unnecessarily complicated, but it's probably grammatically correct.
That’s not the only nor the biggest nit you can pick with this essay.
"Let me shame you every time you introduce a bug/typo in your code."
I guess this is the downside.
My new Kindle has the ability to let me report typos and other content errors.
I've been using that feature A LOT. I've reported 13 content errors in the last month, and I'm not reading all that much, just a few hundred pages in that time.
When I asked about the feature on /r/kindle they said it had been around since the Paperwhite or so, yet books are still riddled with things that even a basic spell check would catch.
Amazon doesn't seem to be holding publisher's feet to the fire.
That's not at all the same as algorithmically rejecting a book based on hyphen count.
If that fails, replace - with ·. Include preface "due to limitations of Amazon's ebook technology, this book uses the · symbol in place of - for hyphenating words".
> So, chuckling to myself, I sent back a response pointing out that the use of a hyphen to join two words together was perfectly valid in the English language and included a handy link to the Oxford English Dictionaries definition page which described it’s usage.
POSSESSIVE ITS HAS NO APOSTROPHE.
Normally I really don't care -- apostrophe use is confusing; my grammar is lousy; I tend to be descriptivist not prescriptivist, etc.
The writer doesn't mention if these hyphens are all joining two words, or of some of them are used to split a single word across a linebreak. The arguments are different for each. For the former you point to the satisfied reviews and a bunch of style guides about use of hyphens. For the latter you mention the piss-poor typography on Kindle, and the lack of any control for authors or readers. (The setting to left-justify with ragged right margin is a hidden setting that requires a tweak to access).
(edited for grammar :)
You're missing the point - when a person is complaining about other people's misuse of grammar, and does so on a webpage that has "grammar matters" in big letters at the top, they really need to make sure that their grammar is not blatantly incorrect. Obvious errors discredit the point they're trying to make.
See also Skitt's law. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/6408927/Internet-...
If it was a creative issue, he'd simply say "it is a stylistic choice, what else do you need from me to re-activate this ebook for sale?"
Reading this line, you would think the book is of a sufficiently extreme nature to trigger censoring, but seeing it applied to something as trivial as hyphenation (would that be hyphen-hate-tion...?) is the most shocking part.
Monopoly or not, this is a hard problem and one that we see in other places like Google search or Apple's app store. Gaming the systems have become big business, and the little guy ends up being a casualty in the overall war.
The rest of these comments discussing whether the original author is using hyphens correctly seem insane to me. Writers write as they write. Read it or don't read it. Enjoy it or hate it. Ask for a refund if you think it is sold in bad faith. But forcing a writer to change it is an unacceptable invasion of expression by the infrastructure. Any short term gain in increasing "quality" is subsumed by the potential weakening of the evolution of communication and art, which relies on creators taking liberties with conventional forms.
I have seen countless times that, if the current page breaks on a hyphen, then the next page seems to begin at the next full sentence, thereby losing information. My normal workaround is to simply change font size temporarily to force a repagination. It is annoying.
So, maybe this is why people have complained? I can't really see any other explanation for caring whether or not an author chose to hyphenate.
Also worth noting that the "automation" was a spell checker, which presumably flagged examples that aren't considered properly hyphenated in the English language.
Amazon does most certainly pull books that have bad spelling or grammar based on user complaints, and I'm glad they do so. I've stumbled into poorly self-edited Kindle books many times, and have been awfully pissed I've dropped money on them. I'm happy for some quality control.
For those that think there should be a completely hands-off release process for these books, that's just horseshit. Books have been edited pretty much since the concept of "books." If an author wants to apply back for a waiver based on their Joycean command of the English language, wonderful. For a pulp writer, I don't buy it for a second.
I'm also waiting to hear about the rash of automated spell or grammar checking causing issues. Because right now what I see is one frustrated author throwing around accusations and any number of satisfied authors who actually wrote their books correctly.
I'm just not at all sure this is a technical glitch. As far as I can tell from the excerpts mentioned, the author probably does actually misuse hyphens. I'm not very prescriptive when it comes to language, but there is a point where you have to consider it to be an error instead of a mutation.
OK, the book is back up and it's on Kindle Unlimited so I grabbed it and skimmed the first few chapters. So far, not too bad on the hyphen front, just a couple of instances I caught (water-bed jumped out). It might get worse later, of course.
But unless it's messing with screen-readers as posited above, perhaps Amazon did blindly react on this one. I've certainly seen much worse.
That said, holy crap the writing is profane. I don't think I've seen this many fucks in one place since I stopped watching C-SPAN.
We've been using it as a metaphor since 1930's. It hasn't impaired the "real" usage of the word "War" so far. I doubt it will in the future.
I suppose it stems from early issues with even well-known books being horribly mis-formatted for Kindle. Ok enough hyphens for now.
At least you English writers can count your lucky stars that it is possible to publish ebooks at all on Amazon.
If you have published a regular book on Amazon in a language not deemed to be worthy of Kindle support you are SOL: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A9FDO0A3V0119
Rather a short list isn't it? And the list is not growing despite sideloaded books displaying perfectly fine on Kindle in the not supported languages.
It's unfortunate, because authors do deserve better, and they'll understandably be upset when they're routed to a malfunctioning robot. But if the problem is too many authors and not enough support staff, maybe the real question is: does self-publishing scale?
I realize this is a completely different situation than Graeme's, where he is deliberately hyphenating words in an anachronistic way, presumably for stylistic reasons. But I wonder if Amazon do have some sort of stance on hyphenation based on reader data.
I am a developer, (not a writer), but this outrages me nonetheless
Amazon goes above and beyond for their customers. As a publisher or marketplace seller operating on their platform, they are your customer. Amazon's reseller support is entirely different, in my experience, from how they treat consumers -- a bit less polish because it is an internal tool is to be expected, but it goes a bit beyond that. I was initially a little unhappy with that, but since I'm also a customer, it makes sense.
They clearly could do better here in escalation path, but don't expect hand-holding. Amazon isn't exactly going to go out of business because your book isn't for sale.
If Amazon is so concerned about formatting, then it should make some better tools to help authors fix bad formatting, not just run what seems to be simplistic regex matches on a pile of words.
It's possible that most of those hyphens are line-break hyphens, not word-join hyphens.
>> In the United Kingdom, nonce is a slang word for a sex offender or child sexual abuser.
I'd delete the comment but HN has got ridiculously militant about that now and I can't.