In class, my student said: "Nobody cares if I spell "part-time job" with a hyphen or not. They can still read the words."
And in an email this morning: "I understand why using “which” to refer to an idea instead of a single noun is syntactically wrong. It’s just that I have heard native speakers use “which” like that in spoken language so many times that I just assumed it was a correct use (I even heard it just an hour ago in a movie, which immediately made me think... so easy to do, I just did it.).
I wrote back this:
Regarding “which” – you are right. Speakers use "which" every which way. Speaking is different from writing though. Speaking is usually done spontaneously. In speaking, there is enough other information (context, tone of voice) to understand. If I don’t understand and you are in front of me, I can say, “What do you mean?”
In writing, the reader is often remote. In formal writing, the writing represents a final recorded thought. The writing introduces the author to the reader and often there is no other information except the written text. It is important to be as unambiguous as possible so as not to interrupt the reader’s flow or wear the reader out and thus break the bond of trust between reader and writer.
Regarding the student complaining about hyphens. I agreed with him as well. Most likely, 90% of readers won't care if a compound word is together, separate, or hyphenated. These are graduate students, though. They might be writing academic papers that will be rejected by publishers if their spelling is inconsistent. They will be writing research proposals and internship reports.
I told them that they could do what they like with their writing, unless it is writing they do for me in this class. I want them to know what correct, concise, unambiguous writing looks like so that they can at least have choices.
My Spanish-speaking student told me that in her country, they like to write long sentences with little punctuation. She said that they were taught to almost never use commas. She also said the writing is tedious and hard to understand.
I'm sure there are many opinions. We do what we do.
mivasairski see below re minutiae.