Thursday, August 7, 2008

Grammar Question

I am freaking out about this headline in the Advocate:
Stamford considers making parking meters user-friendlier

Did "user-friendlier" strike anyone else as awkward?

In my mind, it's obvious they should have said "more user-friendly." I did some research online. If a word is more than two syllables, you say "more ___" rather than "___ier." I believe that since this word is hyphenated, it's one word, so the headline-maker should have used "more."

I'm freaking out, though, because two relatively reputable sources say that "user-friendlier" may be a legitimate word. Free Dictionary.com lists it as a word, and a BBC expert says it could go either way: Hyphenated adjectives, which are also known as compound adjectives, normally use more and most for the comparative and superlative forms. This is the general rule. Sometimes it is not so clear-cut, so we would say that one form is more likely than the other. In [the example of "user-friendlier or more user-friendly,"] both are quite possible, it seems to me.

Well, I don't agree. You don't stick "-ier" or "-er" on a word that long.
I found that word so distracting that I could not focus on the article.

Another general rule of language is, "If it sounds so weird that it stops people in their tracks, say it the more conventional way." I would really like to know why the Advocate went with the weirder option.
I hate to complain, but I am a word person, and I need to understand this. I should be blogging about Trump, but all I can think about is this grammar question.

Me to husband: What should I title this?
Husband: "I'm a Pedantic Pain in the Ass?"

Here are a couple of other Stamford Talk rants relating to words:
--January 8, 2008-- Stamford's Jan.3 Murder: Too Much Info?
--November 15, 2007-- The Advocate, Grammar, and Me

8 comments:

louuuuuu said...

"more user-friendly" is more grammatically correct since USER-FRIENDLY is four syllables. It's a real mouthfull.

Your own ear is the best judge of grammar. And "more user friendly" is more user-friendly to your ear than "user-friendlier."

Or something like that.

Lou

Anonymous said...

The British syntax differs, so a BBC expert would not be the best judge in this case. I say "more user-friendly" because the second word in a compound adjective should not perform two functions (adjective & superlative).

Anonymous said...

oops--meant comparative. Anyway, here's the litmus test: would you say, "user-friendliest"?

If you would, you'd be hard to listen to
:)

mistersquid said...

"User-friendlier" is fine and, from a perspective of style, better usage because "more user-friendly" relies on "more" as an intensifier which is not as strong as the (hyphenated) comparative.

HOWEVER, if I were writing the sentence, I would choose "more user-friendly."

Headlines and regular prose present different usage patterns, as they should.

Anonymous said...

On a general note, I just love the fact that this distracted you from appreciating the article. We need some guardians of grammar out there. Look at the forgotten apostrophe. I've noticed in signs, in particular, it's frequently missing or if it's there, completely misplaced. Oh, to have a giant red pen to mark them up. Maybe I should call Sharpie. ;P

JR said...

My soul aches every time I see words made plural with an apostrophe, like Tuesday's or dog's. I also can't fathom how people I know who have college degrees can't figure out "you're" vs. "your" and "it's" vs. "its."

This guy, on the other hand, is my hero.
http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=4600830

Anonymous said...

This is a pet peeve of mine...it one ups my road rage even!

The Stratford Observer said...

Grammar hurts me in my shoes