The Associated Press Stylebook is the gold standard for journalistic (non-academic) style writing. The concepts of AP Style, for the most part, simply mirror those of good grammar and writing that is not wordy or overly flowery.
Still, there are multiple concepts, examples, specific exceptions, and bizarre conventions that stump even seasoned writers with years of experience. In cases like these, writers turn to their trusty AP Stylebook.
But, even then, there are no guarantees that unambiguous rules and explanations will be forth coming. In fact, the uncertain topic that the writer heads to the AP Style Guide to find, might not even be in there. I call these uncertain events, Adventures in AP Style.
AP Stylebook Rules for Prefixes
On one hand, prefixes are easy. Any literate high school graduate has an arsenal of examples and rules to lean on that they have picked up along the way. And yet, there are a myriad of possibilities that compete for the title of “that looks right.”
Today’s adventure takes us to the Jungle of Hyphenation. Inhabited by a slew of prefixes, the Jungle’s most fearsome creatures are the Hyphenators, large complicated beasts who make writers look like fools by making them insert hyphens where they do not belong, or worse, making them leave them out when they are needed.
Today, I found myself staring down the quicksand filled path virtually lined with Hyphenators. My particular bugaboo on this sunny morning was the Multi Hyphenator. Specifically, multinational, multicultural, multilingual, and if such a things exists, multilegal or multijurisdictional.
My AP Style Book did not let me down, but did manage to deploy the Shadow of Doubt along the trail.
According to the AP Styleguide, multi is generally not hyphenated as in multimillionaire, multilateral, and multicolored. However, it also says that the rules of prefixes apply. And so, we set off on another adventure.
The general prefix rules are to not hyphenate with the exceptions of vowel-ending prefix, and vowel-beginning root word, and also when the root is still capitalized behind the prefix. And, then my personal favorite, when the prefixes are doubled, as in sub-subparagraph. With the exception of citing laws or statutes, I would suggest that any such writing be revised so as to not require a doubled prefix.
Back to our writing, multinational is thus settled as a no brainer, as is multicultural and multilingual (although spell check was already on top of those). I am left slightly hanging on whether or not multilegal would be a useful turn of phrase.
The purpose being the flow of words with the multi prefix being used sequentially, and the context being a company which is large enough that it must deal with being multination, multilingual, and also capable of dealing with multiple legal systems, some of which might make certain actions illegal, while they are not only legal, but potentially necessary elsewhere. – You can see how the real word ‘multi-jurisdictional’ isn’t exactly the right meaning, although, I now know that as a vowel to vowel combo that it should be hyphenated.
Since Webster’s hates it both with and without a hyphen, I will be restructuring the sentence to convey the meaning without the use of the prettier sounding repetition.
Se la vie.