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In my native language, Norwegian, one uses hyphens when stating two or more copulated compound words that has common parts (words). In a thesis I'm working on, should I write

test specimens, test setups and test results

or could I write (like in Norwegian)

test specimens, -setups and -results?

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You only repeat the hyphen if it was there in the original:

  • With all test-specimens, test-setups, and test-results.


  • With all test-specimens, -setups, and -results.

However, without the hyphen, you mustn’t put it in:

  • With all test specimens, test setups, and testresults.


  • With all test specimens, setups, and results.

Some languages don’t even use the hyphen. Spanish “claramente, lentamente y fácilmente” becomes “clara, lenta y fácilmente”.

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Good answer. +1 – user21032 May 15 '12 at 19:59

It's perfectly acceptable, although not extremely common usage, to continue a list of words with hyphens instead of prefixes; the opposite situation is perhaps even more common: a list of prefixes with a common root. Super-, sub-, and paranormal, for example.

In English, though, the examples you've given aren't compound words. So I'd say: don't use hyphens. Test specimens, setups, and results should be fine, or (if you want to be precise and don't mind sounding long-winded and awkward) Specimens, setups and results pertaining to the test(s).

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A bit of hard work it may be but sorry, you just have to write out:

test specimens, test setups and test results.

These are terms with specific meanings significant in the context.

In general literary writing, you could use the license to rephrase as convenient, but not in a research paper.

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Why? It sounds fine to me saying “test specimens, setups, and results”. The “test” distributes to the rest of the list, or is carried forward, however you prefer it. – tchrist May 13 '12 at 19:55
@tchrist Not in a research paper -- it's not done. You are right about literary use of such a structure, though -- say in any general writing. I said that, as well, in my answer. I could give you reasons but that'd be too long for a Q&A site as this. – Kris May 13 '12 at 20:05

I would go with: test specimens, test setups, and test results.

To use a suspensive hyphen, you would also need to use it in the first item in the series: test-specimens, test-setups, and test-results. And I don't think that a hyphen is needed in that case.

If neither of these is satisfactory, you could reword to say, "....specimens, setups, and results of the test."

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Thank you all for clarifying comments and answers. From them I now think that it's best in the case of "compound words" without hyphen(s) to rewrite the sentence in the style of @MT_Head and JLG -- atleast for three or more pairs of words. – Christian Dalheim Øien May 14 '12 at 7:54

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