pageok
pageok
pageok
Which Is Better -- "Pre-emption" or "Preemption"?

Of course, we all know that the best solution is preëmption, but I'm curious what people think about the other two options.

By the way, I'm pretty sure both are fully standard -- neither can be said to be "wrong" as a matter of standard English usage, though particular publications may have style manuals that insist on one or the other.

J. Aldridge:
Yeah, one or the other is fine, just do not use both together in the same works.
10.24.2008 8:43pm
Kreider:
Preemption makes more sense. "Pre-emption" is like writing cooperation as "co-operation." Just not as aesthetically pleasing.
10.24.2008 8:52pm
MarkField (mail):
I use the hyphen because the double e looks odd to me.
10.24.2008 8:52pm
db:
On the theory that Caleb Nelson is usually right about stuff, I vote for preemption. See Caleb Nelson, Preemption, 86 Va. L. Rev. 225 (2000)
10.24.2008 8:58pm
Bruce F. Webster (mail) (www):
I'm a great fan of hyphens, but not in this case. I'd use "preemption". ..bruce..
10.24.2008 8:59pm
Tom Round (mail):
I thought you Americans hated hyphens on principle? That either "non self sustaining" or "nonselfsustaining" is Webster-kosher, but "non-self-sustaining" is a return to the tyranny of George III?
10.24.2008 9:01pm
Nathan_M (mail):
I think the hyphen in "pre-emption" makes it easier to read. I recognize "pre-emption" in a single glance, but with "preemption" I have to spend a little bit of time figuring out where "preem" is going.

Of course this is only an issue the first time the word comes up, so it's probably not a huge deal.
10.24.2008 9:01pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Tom Round: What made you think that?
10.24.2008 9:04pm
matt b (mail):
it looks and reads oddly when non-hyphenated.
10.24.2008 9:06pm
Chris 24601 (mail) (www):
Hyphenate!
10.24.2008 9:07pm
Tom Round (mail):
Eugene: writing a PhD thesis on John Hart Ely and finding repeated US references to either "representation reinforcing" or even (rarely) "representationreinforcing", but almost never "representation-reinforcing".

One article (circa 1981) by Ira Lupu referred to Roe as preventing opponents of abortion from voting for "profile" candidates, which to my mind shows the value of the humble hyphen in avoiding typos.
10.24.2008 9:08pm
DiverDan (mail):
I go for preemption, as well as cooperation. Why add a hyphen when it's just not necessary, and adds nothing to either asthetics or understanding? While adding the hyphen might aid persons unfamiliar with the word with pronunciation, that's just not enough justification to add the hyphen. Might as well delete the final e in forte so I don't have to constantly hear people say "That's just not my for-tay".
10.24.2008 9:09pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
hyphenate. 'ee' is a valid lexeme in English with a different sound.
10.24.2008 9:22pm
Hoosier:
I'm with Nathan and matt: It is easier to recognize the word when it is hyphenated.

The comparison with "cooperation" is interesting, because one sees that in books that came out around the time that "coöperation" was fading. Not that long ago. The umlaut was clealry there to indicate that the "oo" should not be read as a dipthong.

But "cooperate" is such a common word, and I suspect that this is why there is no longer a felt need to indicate the syllabification of "coop." Pre-empt is not written frequently enough in general usage to qualify. In a decade, perhaps, we'll see "preempt" take over. As of now, I write "pre-emption."

(Can we also anticipate that "preemptory" will take on the meaning of "peremptory," which will then fade from the language?)
10.24.2008 9:32pm
John A. Fleming (mail):
inference, preference, reference don't have hyphens, but are also prefix+root constructions (con-structions?), and probably never had hyphens.
So preemption, even though others don't like the double vowel. Written English doesn't normally use pronunciation hints (accents, graves, umlauts).

Unlike the more common evolution of noun conjunctions: "key stone" "key-stone" "keystone".
10.24.2008 9:44pm
_quodlibet_:
I go with "pre-emption". Without the "-", it's too easy to parse the "ee" as a single vowel, as in "preen".
10.24.2008 10:02pm
Syd Henderson (mail):
Technically speaking the double dot in coöperation is a diaeresis, although it looks the same as an umlaut. An umlaut changes the sound of the vowel,as in Schrödinger and Führer, while the diaeresis signals that the vowel it's above is to be sounded separately
10.24.2008 10:04pm
cathyf:
Preemption, Illinois 61276
10.24.2008 10:14pm
EH (mail):
Syd Henderson has it: Either hyphenate or use a dieresis. "Preemption" is wrong either way, but feel free to ignore the prescriptive imperative.
10.24.2008 10:37pm
Bleepless:
Emption (pre), emption(pre) or emption, pre. Take your pick.
10.24.2008 10:51pm
Eric Jablow (mail):
What style does "Bridge World" use? They must use forms of that word more frequently than any other journal.
10.24.2008 10:53pm
Harry:
Well, where I grew up, it was pre-emption, as Pre-emption Rd and Pre-emption St would attest.
10.24.2008 10:59pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Don't you think "preëmption" is just a bit 19th century?

If you don't want to look too antebellum, I would suggest the hyphenated version.
10.24.2008 11:25pm
Cornellian (mail):
The umlaut would make sense in French where I believe it would indicate that the double vowel is two sounds, not a dipthong (which is what we want here), but is there any reasonably modern precedent for using that accent in English?
10.24.2008 11:28pm
Michael Drake (mail) (www):
'Preemption'' Three reasons: (1) 'pre' generally takes closed compounds; (2) 'emption' is not an independent lexical item; and (3) I like 'preemption' better.
10.24.2008 11:33pm
Hoosier:
Cornellian
"The umlaut would make sense in French where I believe it would indicate that the double vowel is two sounds, not a dipthong (which is what we want here), but is there any reasonably modern precedent for using that accent in English?"

The names of heavy metal bands?

And the Onion: "Ünited Stätes Toughens Image With Umlauts"

Beyond that, nöt müch.
10.24.2008 11:46pm
TheGoodReverend (mail) (www):
Here's my solution when faced with such questions: Look up the prefix in Webster's. Generally there will be a long list of words starting with the prefix. Even if a given compound doesn't appear, there's likely to be one that is sufficiently analogous to provide an answer. Here preemption (or preempt) doesn't appear, but preembargo, preemployment, and preenrollment do. So it would appear that closed is the preference.

Of course, in this case, preempt appears as its own entry (not under pre-) in my dictionary. So I'd just go by that.
10.24.2008 11:49pm
Albatross (www):
Cornellian said: "The umlaut would make sense in French where I believe it would indicate that the double vowel is two sounds, not a dipthong (which is what we want here), but is there any reasonably modern precedent for using that accent in English?"

How about naïve? Or the name Chloë? Those two are off the top of my head.

Personally, I'd like to see more of it, like in coöperation. So, I guess count me in on the "preëmption" preference.
10.25.2008 12:43am
Cavarbiter (mail):
FWIW, Black's Law Dictionary (at least the 1968 Rev. 4th Edition I acquired during law school many years ago) hyphenates. I don't. It just looks archaic to me.
10.25.2008 1:11am
Cornellian (mail):
10.25.2008 1:13am
Cornellian (mail):
Personally, I'd like to see more of it, like in coöperation. So, I guess count me in on the "preëmption" preference.

And in that situation it serves the useful purpose of indicating that the first two syllables are not "cooper" but "co-op."
10.25.2008 1:15am
Andrew Myers:
American English has traditionally been described as hostile to hyphenated prefixes. Garner will definitely say preemption; I think even Fowler will agree and that's BrE.
So it's preemption (but use a dieresis if you're writing for the New Yorker!).
10.25.2008 1:35am
Albatross (www):
And in that situation it serves the useful purpose of indicating that the first two syllables are not "cooper" but "co-op."

Yes. Yes, it does. Lord knows I don't want to confuse a word that means "working together" with the profession of barrel-making.
10.25.2008 1:53am
Borealis (mail):
I would use "preemption" in legal writing, but if I was writing for a general audience, I would use "pre-emption." It really depends how familiar the audience is with the word.
10.25.2008 2:11am
Daryl Herbert (www):
preemption looks better

pre-emption is easier to read

Since I assume you are writing for the extreme priority the good looks, ditch the hyphen. You don't need to write child-safe law review articles.
10.25.2008 2:38am
jim47:
I heavily associate hyphens with words of recent coinage or niche usage. Once a word is commonplace, the hyphen seems out of place and can project an attitude of dubiousness about the word.

I realize it is a different issue here, but the feeling bleeds over.
10.25.2008 4:38am
some_attorney:
I prefer to use pre-emption so that my spell checker or the reader (or myself) won't mistake it for peremption. But whatever.
10.25.2008 5:04am
Public_Defender (mail):
As a practicing lawyer, I would look at the opinions of the court I was arguing in. I'd do whatever they do.

If I were writing a law review article, I'd eliminate the hyphen. It's a waste of pixels, and the oddity of a hyphenated word makes it pop a little from the page. As to pronunciation, anyone reading an article that discusses preemption can pronounce it without the hyphen.
10.25.2008 6:49am
Arkady:

Words have a physiognomy.


Well-known Austrian philosopher.
10.25.2008 7:56am
Alan Gunn (mail):
It don't make me no difference.
10.25.2008 8:49am
Hoosier:
Arkady:

"Words have a physiognomy.


Well-known Austrian philosopher."

OK. So either Wittgenstein or Schwarzenegger?
10.25.2008 9:21am
Sarah (mail) (www):
I can't believe there were this many posts on a minor linguistic topic on a Friday night.

I write "pre-emption" when I'm a) sure my audience will have difficulty pronouncing it, b) writing to people who are used to British spellings (I also shamelessly add unnecessary "u" and "e" and even sometimes swap "z" and "s"), or c) feeling like being different. "Preemption" wins on legal blogs, when I'm lazy, or when the tyranny of Microsoft Word is more important than my audience's needs. "Cooperation" is pretty much universal... but I add extra hyphens whenever I can when commenting on the BBC website, and so it becomes "co-operation" there (I do the same thing with my 8-year-old Sunday School classes, who usually get bonus lessons in math and reading while studying scripture with me.)

Also: I have no objection to hyphens. My name is hyphenated, my first cousins' names are all hyphenated, and I went to elementary school with the son of this man, whose entire family is hyphenated. Embrace semi-exotic punctuation, that's what I say; I'm already typing hyphens every day anyhow.
10.25.2008 9:59am
Eugene Volokh (www):
Skyler: I was just joking about the dieresis; it is indeed too archaic for modern use unless one is deliberately trying to sound archaic or idiosyncratic.
10.25.2008 11:03am
Cornellian (mail):
I can't believe there were this many posts on a minor linguistic topic on a Friday night.

Come here often? We live for this stuff.
10.25.2008 12:03pm
Curmudgeonly Ex-Clerk (www):
Tom Round wrote:
I thought you Americans hated hyphens on principle? That either "non self sustaining" or "nonselfsustaining" is Webster-kosher, but "non-self-sustaining" is a return to the tyranny of George III?
No tyrannical implications. It's just that during the Boston Tea Party we accidentally threw several boxes of perfectly good hyphens overboard by mistake as well, and we've been short ever since.

I practice in an area that's been throwing the word around of late, and I've seen it both ways in opinions and briefs. My sense is that use of the hyphenated version is declining but is still used my a significant minority of practitioners and judges.
10.25.2008 1:16pm
byomtov (mail):
What style does "Bridge World" use? They must use forms of that word more frequently than any other journal.

They use "preempt." That tends to support Hoosier's point that the value of hyphenating declines as the word becomes more familiar.
10.25.2008 2:25pm
Obvious (mail):
EV: Which Is Better -- "Pre-emption" or "Preemption"?

As a libertarian, I think non-intervention is best...
10.25.2008 2:31pm
Obvious (mail):
How Are Law Professors Different From Other People?

EV: "I was just joking about the dieresis"
10.25.2008 2:33pm
non-native speaker:
"this many posts" or "these many posts"?
10.25.2008 2:36pm
Hoosier:
C. Ex-C.:

No tyrannical implications. It's just that during the Boston Tea Party we accidentally threw several boxes of perfectly good hyphens overboard by mistake as well, and we've been short ever since.

That was worthy of late-80s Dave Barry. I congratulate you, sir/madame.

Sarah-- and I went to elementary school with the son of this man

I went to high school with this woman

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liz_Phair

Which is irrelevant. But she's totally cool.
10.25.2008 3:10pm
Hoosier:
non-native speaker:
"this many posts" or "these many posts"?

"As many posts as are here posted by the posters of these posts. Here."

(I used to teach ESL!)
10.25.2008 3:11pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
If "emption" were a commonly used word, I'd vote to hyphenate. But it isn't, so "preemption" works for me.

Besides, we don't write "red-emption," do we?       ;-)
10.25.2008 4:58pm
MarkField (mail):
So, what's the vote on pre-eminent?
10.25.2008 5:37pm
Tom Round (mail):
Curmudgeonly Ex-Clerk:

Touche.

(Or, as Webster commanded Americans to spell it - "Toche".)
10.25.2008 5:43pm
Arkady:
Hoosier:

It's the other guy. Aahnuld said:


Words have a physique.
10.25.2008 6:58pm
Dr. T (mail) (www):
I agree with Nathan_M. Pre-emption is easier to read.

In my view, prefixes that create double vowels at the junction should use a hyphen. Yes, that means I prefer co-operation to cooperation (which, at first glance, seems to refer to the action of a barrel maker).
10.25.2008 7:24pm
JohnO (mail):
Preemption. Emption is not a word I'm familiar with, so I prefer going without the hyphen.

By the same token, I think seeing "non" as a separate word is unusual, so I always hyphenate words like non-compete, etc.
10.25.2008 8:24pm
Richard Neumann (mail):
Preemption. When adding the prefix is a novelty, writers tend to use a hyphen. As we get used to seeing the combination, the hyphen gradually disappears because a new word has been created. The umlaut is archaic. Today, it just looks cute. If you want to attract attention and slow the reader down, use it. If your goal is readability, either use the hyphen or don't, depending on whether the prefix has created a new word yet. (For the record, I like umlauts. In some languages, they're more than a guide to pronunciation. They creates different letters, which are alphabetized after z. But if I explain this, you're going to be bored, aren't you? That's because in English this is arcane knowledge.)
10.26.2008 12:48pm
Hoosier:
Pre-emption.

Po-temkin.
10.26.2008 9:15pm
AlanDownunder (mail):
Pre-emption or preemption?

I'll settle for neither, like Bush patently should have.
10.27.2008 6:43am
LC Schreib:
As several of the commentors have suggested, binary wordage usually evolves as time passes. The first order is two words. With time and extended usage, the binary evolves to a hyphenated form. As this form becomes common and easily recognized by readers the hypen is eventually dropped and the binary become a single word, i.e.;

a) side walk, b) side-walk and c) sidewalk.
10.29.2008 3:49am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
I don't use the hyphen but for reasons that have to do with typesetting conventions. In general, where both are accepted, I drop the hyphen.

The reason is that it is incorrect to autohyphenate pre-emption when doing typesetting, so preemption is better (if it goes over the margins it can be hyphenated at pre-emption, preemp-tion, etc).

In response to LC Schreib's point, I would add though that a lot of compounds actually are inherited from Old English, where binary compounding was accepted and never hyphenated. Even in early middle English, we get compounds like Courtyard. (Note that Court comes from the Old French word which has the same meaning as yard does in Middle English, so it is a redundant compound....)
10.29.2008 7:28pm