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The oft-cited first sentence of this work

Why would you not just use two words, oft cited?

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Oft is an archaic or literary form of often; nowadays, you probably find it in hyphened form, such as oft-cited and oft-quoted. –  kiamlaluno Mar 19 '11 at 13:26

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Oft-cited is a phrasal adjective (a/k/a compound modifier). Because "oft" and "cited" must be interpreted together in order to precisely convey the intended meaning, the hyphen is placed between them to tie them together and prevent any mistaken interpretation of them as two separate modifiers.

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why not: 'The oft cited first sentence of this work'. this also seems correct'. –  dodo Mar 19 '11 at 15:16
@dodo That doesn't seem quite as clear to me. –  Kelly Hess Mar 19 '11 at 18:31
@dodo but your spelling works great in the predicate: "the first sentence in this work is oft cited to argue for the flat-earth hypothesis." –  Pete Wilson Mar 19 '11 at 21:33

You want to distinguish between "the first sentence of the work, which happens to be often cited"; "the sentence of the work which is often cited first"; and "the earliest of the many sentences of the work which are often cited". This makes clear it is the first of these alternatives.

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