Government wordsmith Joe Boyle thinks the way to Uncle Sam's heart is on paper.
More to the point, Boyle, who has edited for government here and abroad, believes that nobody gets anything from the federal establishment -- grants, advice or the time of day -- unless they put it in writing the government way.
The government way, as most Washington residents know, is not always the regular way.
For most people the rule is when in doubt, hyphenate. Wrong, says Boyle, who has written a book telling how to handle favorite federal phrases.
His 256-page "The Federal Way With Words" takes potential letters-to-the-government writers from A to Z: A for A-bomb which is always hyphenated in government to Z for zygo: "Compounds beginning with . . . are written as one word (zygomatic) except when the second element begins with 'o' (zygo-orbital)."
When you write Uncle Sam a letter and want to use the word "bull" (and many use part of that word when describing things governmental) be careful, Boyle says, how you handle the bull.
If the subject is "bull terrier" do not write bullterrier, lest your letter be ignored. "Bullback" is the way to write that, whatever it means; "bull-faced" is always hyphenated, but "bullwhack" never is.
Should you need to use the term "swine-backed" in a government communique, always hyphenate. But run the words togather if your subject is swinebread, swinehead, swinepox, swinestone or swinesty.
If insulting a federal official, remember the proper terms are "vile-natured" with hyphen, but "vilehearted" stands by itself.
Children who chew their cribs are practitioners of "crib-bite," never "cribbite" in government parlance.
When you think some government program is on the mark, or way off it, Boyle explains, "hyphenate a nonliteral compound containing an apostrophe in the first element, such as bull's-eye or asses'-eyes."
No wonder people write their congressman when they have a problem with the government!