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How many hyphens should there be in this phrase?

Vietnam war veteran turned performing artist Joe Smith

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1  
None. Please advance your own hypotheses and reasoning. This isn’t a quiz show or a guessing game. –  tchrist Mar 3 '13 at 23:40
    
I already know my reasoning and wondered what other people thought without coloring their opinions. –  user38661 Mar 3 '13 at 23:50
    
Then you should have said that. As it is, it is not a good question, and might get closed. –  tchrist Mar 3 '13 at 23:53
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I would choose: Vietnam-war-veteran-turned-performing-artist Joe Smith. You want all of what comes before to modify Joe Smith, and the hyphens help the reader realize that without having to backtrack. –  JLG Mar 4 '13 at 1:13
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There should not be any hyphens because it needs to be rewritten to avoid a confusing and (to my mind) ugly expression. Unless of course this is a party trick rather than "real" writing. –  Fortiter Mar 4 '13 at 1:35
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marked as duplicate by MετάEd, Andrew Leach, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, tchrist, coleopterist Mar 4 '13 at 14:56

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1 Answer

Your phrase needs either 5 hyphens or a comma. The purpose of the hyphens is to create a single adjective, so that it becomes 'Vietnam-war-veteran-turned-performing-artist Joe Smith'. However, I find that is more elegant, though equally correct, to write about the 'Vietnam war veteran turned performing artist, Joe Smith'.

I'd suggest letting context guide your decision. At the beginning of a sentence, the hyphens make it immediately clear that phrase is a description, though in the case of more than a small handful of words, the hyphens garble the meaning instead of clarifying it.

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