EDITORIAL: Hyphenating our heritage — Are we Asian American or Asian-American?

Article Source: NW Asian Weekly
Original Post Date: August 7, 2014


Photo by Han Bui/NWAW

There has been an ongoing discussion here at the Northwest Asian Weekly about the rules ofaddressing how we represent ourselves in print and online. Are we Asian American (no hyphen) or Asian-American (notice that hyphen)? These are minor details, and an issue that probably fascinates only writers, editors, and grammar-obsessed readers. But there IS a larger issue to consider—and these include rules based on journalism and rules based on identity. Our publisher attended an Asian American Journalists Association meeting (or maybe it was the Asian [HYPHEN!] American Journalists meeting?)  and the hyphenation issue was addressed.

It evolved into a discretionary decision.

The determination was we should not hyphenate.

And why?

The rules are strange.

We try to adhere to the Associated Press (AP) style, which most newspapers follow:  The Associated Press has been the standard for newspaper format and is referenced constantly.

There are A LOT of rules, so it is difficult and also impossible to follow all. We do Street instead of St. We do Avenue instead of Ave. ­We don’t italicize publications (sorry MLA fans). We do congressmember instead of congress member. But we don’t do Asian-American instead of Asian American.

The image we reproduced is the entry from the actual guide. And… so…according to the AP Stylebook: We should hyphenate African-American. We should hyphenate Asian-American.

But we should not hyphenate Native American. Confusing, right? What qualifies a hyphen and what does not? And what about Indian Americans and European Americans, which have no entries in the stylebook?

Granted, yes, it is not a critical issue—determining whether we should insert a simple dash in our labels.

But here at NWAW, we decided NOT to hyphenate Asian Americans. We are not hyphenating our heritage.

Any NWAW wordsmiths out there can have fun with that.

And by the way, our excellent intern is Russian American—no hyphen.

And our layout editor, who is Vietnamese American, will probably tell us this editorial is too short.

And our publisher, who is Asian American, will probably agree.

And the editor, who is I-have-no-clue American (but also Asian American), will still keep trying to figure out what needs to be hyphenated.