Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Is it spelled well thought-out, or well-thought out, or well thought out?

share|improve this question

3 Answers 3

up vote 14 down vote accepted

It depends on how you use it... if it's preceding the word it modifies, then it should be hyphenated:

He paused for a bit, and then gave a well-thought-out answer.

However, if it follows the word it modifies, no hyphenation is necessary:

He paused for a bit, wanting to make sure his answer was well thought out.

(My source: Chicago Manual of Style, 14th Edition, sections 6.38–6.40)

share|improve this answer
2  
I would use well-thought-out if it would means something different from well thought-out; in the example sentence, well can only be applied to thought-out, not to answer. –  kiamlaluno Feb 2 '11 at 5:15
3  
I would argue that "well thought out" is the complete compound adjective, and as such, should be hyphenated (or unhyphenated, as the case may be) in its entirety. m-w.com/dictionary/thought-out agrees with me. :-) –  Hellion Feb 2 '11 at 5:33
2  
Style guides differ on whether adverbs in compound adjectives(?) require hyphens. Many of them recommend against hyphens for adverbs. –  ShreevatsaR Feb 2 '11 at 8:50

That would be "well thought-out". See http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/thought-out. Adding "well" before "thought-out" does not require a hyphen because well is an adverb.

share|improve this answer
3  
That link specifically lists "well-thought-out", with the extra hyphen, in its list of "entries found".... –  Hellion Feb 2 '11 at 5:34
1  
-1, I'm afraid. The link you provide directly contradicts the answer you offer. –  Karl Jul 17 '12 at 6:41
    
Does clicking on "well-thought-out" bring up a proper entry if you have a subscription/activate the free trial? –  nxx Sep 26 '13 at 9:51

Whether preceding or following a noun, the phrase is open per Chicago MOS 7.85, "When the adverb rather than the compound as a whole is modified by another adverb, the entire expression is open." Chicago's example: "a very much needed addition."

Therefore, in both constructions, "His plan was well thought out" and "It was a well thought out plan" the phrase would remain open.

share|improve this answer

protected by tchrist Aug 13 at 14:46

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.