News, Henry Fuhrmann, Times editor and ‘word nerd’ who fought for fairness in grammar, dies : detailed suggestions and opinions about Henry Fuhrmann, Times editor and ‘word nerd’ who fought for fairness in grammar, dies .
No one had really paid too much attention to the hyphen. In matters of race and heritage — as in “African-Americans” or “Italian-Americans” — it was easily overlooked, an innocuous piece of punctuation that seemed to make sense.
Henry Fuhrmann thought otherwise. Journalist and self-described word nerd, Fuhrmann saw in the simple construction an unnecessary and derogative diminution of American identities and understood that no battle was too small in the fight for clarity, precision and fairness.
“Those hyphens,” he wrote in a 2019 essay, “serve to divide even as they are meant to connect. Their use in racial and ethnic identities can connote an otherness, a sense that people of color are somehow not full citizens or fully American.”
Tenacious and principled, Fuhrmann campaigned against its usage in newsrooms around the country and succeeded in persuading the profession’s high court, the Associated Press Stylebook, to rescind its dictate on the hyphen when referring “to an American person’s heritage.” At a national meeting of copy editors, Fuhrmann, who was an assistant managing editor for The Times until his retirement in 2015, received an ovation for his efforts.