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Malta needs better weight-loss strategies

Malta's weight-loss strategy is not working.

OK, this post is not about weight loss (although God knows we need that, considering the fact that we always seem to top the obesity rankings) but about terms like 'weight-loss strategies' and how often people get them wrong.

What usually happens is that writers make the phrase fatter by adding an extra and completely unnecessary space, as in 'weight loss strategies'. This is wrong. Why? Because weight-loss in this case is a compound modifier.

Compound modifiers are sets of two or more words that modify nouns. Compound modifiers act like adjectives and are hyphenated.

Some examples are:

The twelve-year-old boy blew up the balloon. ('twelve-year-old' modifies the noun 'boy')

I love reading cloak-and-dagger novels. ('cloak-and-dagger' modifies the word 'novels')

Sugar-coated doughnuts taste delicious. ('sugar-coated' modifies the noun 'doughnuts')

And here's an amusing one I heard on the news the other day

"They have found a war horse who will carry them to victory against the wild-haired infidel from Vermont." ('wild-haired' modifies the noun 'infidel', and yes, in case you were wondering, the infidel is the USA presidential candidate Bernie Sanders)

As you can see from the examples above, compound modifiers tend to precede the noun. However, sometimes, they can be used after the noun, like for example:

Doughnuts which are sugar-coated taste delicious. (this is grammatically correct but not as elegant-sounding as 'sugar-coated doughnuts')

The meals are ready-made.

Our industry is very energy-intensive.

The system we built is tamper-proof.

Why do we use compound modifiers at all? Because they sound better and are more economical than writing a longer explanation.

'The coin-filled suitcase was hard to carry' is quicker and easier to say than 'The suitcase, which was full of coins, was hard to carry.

Now that you know all this, go ahead and get a better wight-loss strategy. It will do your writing, and your health, some good.

As always,

Happy writing

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