Sign up ×
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.

Possible Duplicates:
Chainsaw-equipped or chainsaw equipped?
How to connect a word and a phrase with a hyphen?
"One-Day Only Promotion" or "One-Day-Only Promotion"

Which is more correct?

Hardware-counter-based tools


Hardware-counter based tools

I don't even know exactly if I should put hardware-counter or hardware-counters.

share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by MrHen, Marthaª, Robusto, kiamlaluno, RegDwigнt Jun 10 '11 at 8:51

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

@Julian could you help by explaining exactly what a hardware-counter (-) based tool is? – snumpy Jun 8 '11 at 12:54
HOpe this helps, @snumpy – Thursagen Jun 8 '11 at 12:58
@snumpy A piece of software that measures hardware counters. If you want to go into the details, take a look at this: :) – Julian Jun 8 '11 at 12:58
Part of this question is similar to two of the three listed as duplicates, and part similar to the third, but there's a distance between similar and duplicate. None of them are about the question of making a hyphenated phrase from terms where one is already hyphenated, as this does, and as The Raven answers well. – Jon Hanna Jan 20 '13 at 13:58

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

This one is tricky because it is solved with a mark of punctuation called the "en-dash." Its length is longer than a hyphen and shorter than a full em-dash. It's the middle one in this series: - – —

So with a term like "Hardware-counter-based tools" the solution is to use an en-dash between "counter" and "based," which signifies that the modifier "based" should apply to both words preceding it:

Hardware counter–based tools

Otherwise, the en-dash is used to indicate spans or ranges between units: 9:00–10:00, etc.

share|improve this answer
I'm setting this as the accepting answer. I think there is no need to put a hyphen between hardware and counter for disambiguation, as hardware counter is a pretty known term (in this context). – Julian Jun 9 '11 at 14:00

The Raven is close but not quite there yet. "Hardware counter based" is a compound attributive adjective and needs both a hyphen and an en-dash:

This is a hardware-counter–based tool.

A hyphen is usually needed when using a compound adjective:

This is a counter-based tool.

The hyphen–en-dash combo is needed when one of the elements in the compound adjective is itself a compound. This helps the reader identify which of the words are associated with each other:

{ [ ( hardware ) - ( counter ) ] – ( based ) } tool

Not that the hyphen would be unnecessary if the phrase were used as a predicative adjective:

This tool is hardware counter–based.

share|improve this answer
Your proposal is sound, but a bit overcomplicated, isn't it? Two kinds of dashes in the same phrase!? Wow! :) And why the hyphen is unnecessary if the phrase is used as a predicative adjective? – Julian Jun 8 '11 at 14:37
@Julian that's answered in the answer to this question... I think... – snumpy Jun 8 '11 at 15:02
Doug, take a look at the examples given here: In particular, "a White House–backed proposal" accords with the response I've given. I'd more happily allow the hyphen+en-dash solution for a term that is already hyphenated being used as a modifier. – The Raven Jun 8 '11 at 15:46
The reason for the hyphen in a compound modifier, the reason for the en-dash in a compound compound modifier, and the reason no dash is needed in "White House" are all the same reason: disambiguation. There may be more important reasons, but this is the more-important reason. A "cold-case worker" is not the same thing as a "cold case worker." But a "White House pet" will never be confused with a "white house pet." – Doug Jun 9 '11 at 3:13

If you are referring to tools that are based on hardware-counters, I think it should be:

Hardware-counter based tools

There's no real need for the hyphen between "counter" and "based"

share|improve this answer
I may be mistaken here, but would you not say hardware-based tool or counter-based tool? Besides, in the article you and the OP provided hardware counter does not have a dash. – snumpy Jun 8 '11 at 13:04
In that article, "hardware counter" was being used as a noun, whereas in this case, it is being used as a compound modifier – Thursagen Jun 8 '11 at 13:07
The answers for both questions linked by @MrHen suggest that there needs to be a dash before based – snumpy Jun 8 '11 at 13:10
They only had two modifiers in that compound modifier. This has three – Thursagen Jun 8 '11 at 21:41
I'm afraid I find Raven's and Doug's answers far more plausible. – snumpy Jun 9 '11 at 15:40

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