Grammar question related to the Von Neumann neighborhood

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marioxcc
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Grammar question related to the Von Neumann neighborhood

Post by marioxcc » June 20th, 2017, 12:06 pm

Should I write "Von Neumann neighborhood cellular automata" (without hyphens), "Von Neumann-neighborhood cellular automata" (with hyphen*) or "Von Neumann–neighborhood cellular automata" (with em dash)?

Please explain the rationale.

Thanks.

*: Strictly speaking, that is an hyphen-minus. Unicode has a dedicated hyphen character too (U+2010, "‐").

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dvgrn
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Re: Grammar question related to the Von Neumann neighborhood

Post by dvgrn » June 20th, 2017, 2:16 pm

marioxcc wrote:Should I write "Von Neumann neighborhood cellular automata" (without hyphens), "Von Neumann-neighborhood cellular automata" (with hyphen*) or "Von Neumann–neighborhood cellular automata" (with em dash)?

Please explain the rationale.
I'd say: use "von Neumann neighborhood cellular automata" -- no hyphens, and also no capital V (unless it's the beginning of the sentence).

Rationale:
The hyphen doesn't help clarify the meaning of the words in this case, because people would end up reading "Neumann-neighborhood" as a unit, and the extra "von" is hanging way out to the left by itself. The real goal is readability, and adding a hyphen hurts instead of helping... so you don't have to do it! Here's the American Institute of Physics not doing it, for example.

It's true that ideally it would be nice to have "von Neumann neighborhood" as a single unit, making it clear that the pieces "von Neumann" and "neighborhood" aren't supposed to be independent adjectives modifying "CA".

Something like "von-Neumann-neighborhood" would keep people from thinking "von Neumann CA" (which is specifically John von Neumann's original ruleset) -- or "neighborhood CA" by itself, which to me sounds something like "friendly neighborhood Spider-Man"...

But text gets hard to read when you add too many hyphens, so you don't have to do that either. I have no official citation for that rule, but maybe it could be called the It's-Just-Plain-Better-Not-To-Add-Too-Many-Hyphens Rule.

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