Thursday, July 16, 2020


Zoë's been reading her way through The Magic Treehouse series. In the very last chapter of Dinosaurs Before Dark, the first book in the series, Jack and Annie hear their mother calling them and because she's yelling, she's stretching out their names to make them carry a long distance.

"Ja-ack!" was the way it was spelled out in the book. "An-nie!"

Zoë got to that part and faltered. "Ja-ack?" she read. "Ja-ack? Why Ja-ack?"

So I explained to her that words are often hyphenated like that when the author wants us to imagine them being drawn out, like we're yelling the name from far away. The vowel is repeated with the hyphen in between so we know to switch tones with our voice. 

"Like this," I told her, and then I sang out, "Jaaaaaa-aaaack!"

"Oh!" she said, very impressed with this new-fangled orthography. "Jaaaaa-aaack! An-nie!"

"Perfect," I told her. "Just like that. That way it sounds like their mother is calling them, right? Pretty neat."

She kept reading. The children climbed out of the treehouse so they could run home before dark. Annie turned to say goodbye to the treehouse (which is a magic treehouse, by the way (that might be a spoiler but, like, honestly...the series is called The Magic Treehouse so...chill)) and for whatever reason they chose to use the hyphenated spelling of good-bye (which...who even does that still?). 

So when she went to read Annie's farewell to the treehouse she used the little lesson on inflection that I'd just taught her. 

"Gooo-oood-byyy-yyye!" she sang out.

I just about died of cuteness overload, but I managed to stifle my laughter. 

"So," I informed her. "Some words are spelled with a hyphen normally, like, in this instance of 'good-bye.' Annie isn't hollering at the tree. She's simply saying, 'Good-bye.' And good-bye can sometimes—but isn't always—be spelled with a hyphen...and we just say it without doing anything special to our voices."

"Oh," said Zoë. "Good-bye."


"So sometimes the hyphen means we get to dooo-ooo thiiii-iiis with our voices and doesn't?"

"Exactly. Sometimes it even means 'don't stop sounding out the word here because it's continued on the next line or page,' remember?"

"Oh, yeah. The hyphen can do three things?! That's confusing."

"That's the story of life. Let's keep reading, shall we?"


Life is terribly confusing, isn't it?


  1. What a fun (funny) learning experience!

  2. I have seen no-one spelled with a hyphen in a few books or a blog...can't remember, and that threw me since I've mostly seen it and spelled it like "no one."