When it involves following grammatical rules by example, the ar is a minefield, because many publishers and publications can’t even seem to obtain it right, and also writers need to resort to searching down the correct consumption in a layout guide or a creating handbook.

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Take, for instance, paragraph of number of words in i m sorry hyphenation appears to be called for. Is the “word the mouth,” or “word-of-mouth”? do you create “on the spot,” or “on-the-spot”? The quick-and-easy answer is, because that these and most other evident word chains, break those chains: No hyphens are important — unless the phrase precedes a noun: “I count on word-of-mouth communication”; “She make an on-the-spot assessment.”

But the game transforms for a special course of expression that, for lack of typical nomenclature, we can contact anatomical association:

When your dorsal side is opposite who else’s, she standing back-to-back, and when you face someone, you go head-to-head. This kind of phrase is sometimes hyphenated in adverbial form (used in conjunction through a verb) as well as in adjectival form (preceding or complying with a noun): “He created back-to-back access time throughout the decade.” “She hoped to a stop a head-to-head confrontation.”

Unfortunately, though, also that group is inconsistent: when you heat up amongst a row of world to her left and right, you positioned next by side, no side-by-side. (Though you still hyphenate the adjectival kind — you stand in a side-by-side formation.) You deserve to live a hand-to-mouth existence, yet you’re life hand to mouth, not hand-to-mouth.

Some similar phrases, such as “head to toe” or “hand in hand,” aren’t even in the dictionary, so the same dominion applies; leave open up in adverb form, and also hyphenate as an adjective. (Phrasal adjectives commonly remain open after a noun, yet these aren’t conducive to the syntax anyway.)

This maddening inconsistency leaves us where us started: when in doubt, look the up.

And what about even much longer word strings? You have the right to write that someone has actually a devil-may-care attitude, and also that someone has actually a not-in-my-backyard mentality, however where perform you attract the line and stop illustration that tiny line we call a hyphen? What if someone has actually a do-unto-others-before-someone-does-unto-you approach to life?

Many together phrases are enclosed in quotation marks quite than hyphenated, i beg your pardon is reasonable because that something that would certainly conceivably it is in uttered — and doesn’t beat havoc v narrow columns of kind (as the may really well have done here). However phrases of controlled length like “not in my backyard,” even though they’re hypothetical statements, need to remain in phrasal-adjective mode.

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14 Responses to “A Yes-and-No Answer about Hyphenating Phrases”

Ken kon April 20, 2011 1:43 pm

Good: i am not the only one who is bewildered.

Terryon April 21, 2011 9:21 am

Most of the moment if the phrase modifies then hyphenating is the bespeak of the day. Otherwise a devil-may-care perspective should it is in applied.

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Sheila Newtonon April 21, 2011 2:13 pm

What a grand tiny article. Ns agree, that is confusing to know when and also where to placed (or no as the situation may be) her hyphens.I discover it eastiest come look at the written (or typed) page and see if the looks right. If that doesn’t, ns either take the hyphens the end – or pop them in.That’s my ideology – and I’m sticking to it!

Sheila Newtonon April 21, 2011 2:14 pm

Sorry – that was ‘easiest’ no ‘eastiest’ – stunner me. Next, I’ll be writing ‘westiest’!!

John Whiteon April 28, 2011 3:43 pm

>you’re positioned next by side, not side-by-side. (Though friend still hyphenate the adjectival kind — you stand in a side-by-side formation.)

Mark: every little thing I pay you, the isn’t enough. This to be a stitch in time for me. Thanks!

Bobby Veeon December 21, 2014 12:03 pm

English is generally a very inconsistent language. Ns speak 8 languages fluently and yet I have actually never found anything favor the English language because that arcane rules that make tiny sense. No wonder that many non-native speakers of English uncover the language a do the efforts language come learn.

Michele Israel Harperon march 09, 2016 11:46 am

Okay, what about, “she shook her head side-to-side”? I recognize it’s repetitive, yet my author uses “side-to-side” throughout her book, and also not in the adjectival form. Ns am truly baffled, since I store finding sites that say to execute it both means (and I’m currently wading v CMOS appropriate now). A faster way for mine over-tired brain would it is in lovely! thank you!