12/01/2011

A liberal dose of advice on 'ultraconservative'


Back during Mr. Rewrite's days as an undergrad -- that is, when dinosaurs roamed the land -- William F. Buckley gave a speech at the University of Arizona. It was a big deal, occurring back when Buckley's "Firing Line" was on the air and he was a leading voice in American conservatism. Mr. Rewrite had to cover it for a journalism class, along with thousands of other students assigned to attend the speech, for which Mr. Buckley reportedly received five figures.

It turned out to be the most confusing thing Mr. Rewrite has tried to distill into a news article. All Mr. Buckley did was read from a spy thriller he'd recently completed and make a couple of comments connecting the lead character to the U.S. intelligence apparatus.

Anyway, Mr. Rewrite thought about this odd evening because an edit made him dig up whether one is ultra-conservative or ultraconservative -- or the noun derived from the term.

Mr. Rewrite's ruling: ultraconservative. His basis combines the AP Stylebook and Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition. The stylebook says words with ultra- generally don't take a hyphen. Its examples include ultramodern and ultraviolet. It gets a little confusing because the AP Stylebook calls for ultra-rightist and ultra-leftist.

But the New World, where AP turns for matters not covered by its stylebook, calls for ultraconservative as a noun and adjective. In in true bipartisan fashion it calls for ultraliberal as well. That's good enough for Mr. Rewrite.

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