I'm writing a paper in which I refer to "natural-language-controlled robots" about thirty times. I'm curious about this phrase's hyphenation.
I would write
robots controlled by natural language
without hyphens, but when I turn the phrase around to avoid ambiguity, it turns into
natural language controlled robots
which seems to need hyphens all-upons! The robots are not controlled robots of the language variety, so I need a hyphen between language and controlled. They are similarly not language-controlled robots of the natural variety, so it seems I need hyphens between all three words.
feels unwieldy, which brings me here. Is this really how this phrase should be punctuated?
The alternative I've come up with is applying a partial initialism, yielding
which seems better, but prompts similar problems; do I really want a hyphen attached to an initialism? That looks wrong. But the sentence seems semantically wrong without it!
I'm sure I'm overthinking this.