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Reply to "How should I deal with these three issues?"



How exactly do we know that the following interpretations aren't possible?

(1) JFK [assassination nonsense]

(2) [hardcore conspiracy] theorists

(3) ...I'm not even sure if this should be thought of as "[Pentagon advisory] documents" or "Pentagon [advisory documents], actually!

(4) [crazy conspiracy] theorist

(5) [mildly insane conspiracy] theorist

(6) JFK [conspiracy industry]

(7) [big conspiracy] books



1. Well, if we were visiting earth from another planet, I suppose "JFK [assassination nonsense]" could be interpreted as being some brand of assassination nonsense. Fortunately, human beings have common sense. We don't need to be so heavy-handed in punctuation that we are writing for those who lack common sense or who wish perversely to misunderstand.

2. If you mean "[hardcore conspiracy] theorists," then you should go right ahead and use a hyphen. What "hardcore conspiracy theorists" means is "hardcore [conspiracy theorists]." That's how the syntax of cumulative adjectives works: each additional one modifies the aggregate of those to the right (unless there is a hyphen to tell us otherwise). Normally, we say that people are hardcore in some respect. Normally, we do not say that conspiracies are hardcore.

3. If, by "Pentagon advisory documents," your intended meaning is "advisory documents from the Pentagon," then that is exactly what "Pentagon advisory documents" is naturally interpreted as meaning. Again, you need to be clear about the syntax of cumulative adjectives (or cumulative adjectival elements) within a noun phrase. That way you won't need to request an explanation from us every time you write a noun phrase with more than one modifier. You do a lot of writing, and you're doing well! Hyphens should only be used when necessary. If you're not sprinkling them everywhere unnecessarily, that's good!

4. "Crazy-conspiracy theorists" are theorists who deal with crazy conspiracies. "Crazy conspiracy theorists" (no hyphen) are conspiracy theorists who are crazy. I assumed, using common sense, that you meant the second, but if you meant the first, you go right ahead and add that hyphen.

5. See the explanation for (4).

6. See the explanation for (1).

7. See the explanation for (4).

I recognize that you offered an explanation about (1), but I didn't grasp how that eliminates the possibility of interpreting it as "JFK [assassination nonsense]".

See the explanation for (1).

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