Brow Beat

Why Is There No Hyphen in This TV Show’s Name?


In recent years, my bran- and seltzer-loving colleague Copy-Editing the Culture has raised an un-manscaped eyebrow at the most offensive grammatical offenses in popular culture. He is our nation’s last defense against punctuational anarchy.

Still, when I saw the title of a new TV drama premiering on Fox this Thursday, I was relieved that my old friend is currently off the grid, locked away with his reference books, sustained only by the Chicago Manual of Style and thrice-daily coffee enemas. As much as I appreciate his crisp prose and his high standards, I sensed that the briefest exposure to Gang Related might send him into hyphen-related shock.

Fortunately, since I found myself in the same room as the show’s creators at the Television Critics Association gathering in January, I was able to ask why they had chosen to eschew the punctuation that would transform their title from a Mad Libs combination of two random words into a construction that could at least be recognized as an adjective, albeit one lacking a noun to modify.

So why no hyphen?

“Too expensive,” said executive producer Chris Morgan. Unsatisfied, I inquired again. Morgan dug in: “I think it looks beautiful.” Brian Grazer, another executive producer, then rather undercut Morgan’s stonewalling when he admitted, “We just forgot.”

This drove Morgan to elaborate further:

A few years ago, the Writers Guild held a contest: Say what is best about being a writer, but you had to answer in three words. So writers all over would submit, you know, “work in robe,” “make good money.” … And the winner was “There are no rules.” And it’s true, so I’ll write this off as an example of that.

When Copy-Editing the Culture hears that, a single tear will surely roll down his ruggedly handsome face.