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Do the words in the following sentences get hyphenated?

  1. She is old-fashioned.

  2. He was ill-at-ease.

  3. He is well-informed, well-read, well-educated, and well-known.

  4. He brought me up-to-date. (Adverbial.)

  5. He is up-to-date. (Adjectival.)

  6. Joe said, "The test is multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank."

  7. The technology is state-of-the-art and the new software is cutting-edge.

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The "rule" I grew up with is that the hyphens are needed usually when they PRECEDE the nouns they modify. "She is an old-fashioned girl"; "He is an ill-at-ease young man"; "He is a well-known author"; "With his help I became an up-to-date student of chiropractic"; "Today," Joe said, "we will have a multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank test"; "Our state-of-the-art technology, and our cutting-edge software are new." A good deal depends, however, on how the sentence scans as to whether your exemplars as written need hyphens. Could they scan poorly and cause confusion, forcing a re-read? –  rhetorician Feb 26 at 22:20
    
Good point. I love the word 'exemplar' as a substitute for 'example'. :-) –  whippoorwill Feb 26 at 22:25
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This is covered at the' “object-oriented” vs “object oriented” ' thread, but this title is more user friendly. And incidentally, (4) is adjectival (a resultative construction – 'I' becoming up to date; cf 'he hammered the metal flat') not adverbial. –  Edwin Ashworth Feb 26 at 22:42
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@rhetorician: Your comment says everything I would put in an answer. If you posted it, I'd upvote it. (Well, maybe throw in a reference to a sensible style manual, like The Economist’s—and unless Edwin is implying that this is a duplicate question.) –  Daniel Harbour Feb 26 at 22:58
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@DanielHarbour: Thank you. I'm a little reticent to do so, but I give you permission to quote me liberally (or cut and paste the whole thing) if you'd like to provide an answer. Don –  rhetorician Feb 26 at 23:33

1 Answer 1

Predicate adjectives generally are not hyphenated. They gain hyphens when preceding nouns. The common appearance of hyphens in predicate adjectives seems to be a back-formation: Having seen hyphens at "up-to-date account," a writer may then type "The account was up-to-date," unnecessarily carrying the hyphens along with the rest of the expression.

Examples 6 and 7 are exceptions because of the second expression in each, which starts with a a verb or a word that can be mistaken for one. Rather than adding hyphens to the predicate adjectives though, recast them. Example 6: The test has multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank questions. Example 7: Replace "is cutting edge" with "breaks new ground," "opens fresh horizons," "transforms user experience" (sorry: geek-speak), or whatever other substitute for "is new" that you select.

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