George Cooke, together with the editor, asked readers in last week’s letters page if they might be able to help with the hyphen in ‘A privately-owned independent family newspaper’; a phrase that appears beneath the masthead on the front page every week.

It says something about the rather thin Christmas editions that, in the search for any news, readers notice quirks, oddities and niceties instead.

In many respects, the regular howlers and blunders are a rather charming aspect of the paper and make it very much OUR local paper, and something to which I look forward to reading week after week.

One of the most recent and amusing howlers was the headline which shrieked at us ‘HOW MUCH!’ (the article was about rail fares). This is, of course, a question, but it had an exclamation mark suffix.

Although I deprecate the loose use and littering of the pages with exclamation marks (another charming feature of the paper) these days, I suppose one might have expected to see it written ‘HOW MUCH??!!’

Ultimately, it really doesn’t matter a jot, for communication and being able to understand accurately what is meant and intended, is all we should seek.

Nevertheless, returning to the question in hand, the hyphen in ‘privately-owned’ while it might irk some, it allows for the omission of the conjunction.

Leave out the hyphen, and you find you need to insert the conjunction to retain the same meaning; so the phrase becomes ‘A privately owned and independent family newspaper’.

It seems to me that the hyphen works rather well in the original and helps to remind us that there are many instances where it is used, as in topsy-turvy, teensy-weensy, toad-in-the-hole and forget-me-not, which we accept without a further thought.

So, I say let’s leave the strap-line alone and enjoy it as it is.

Mark Westcott

School Road, Rowledge