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I am trying to identify something that was once a new thing. I used the word "then" to imply the subject as something that is already a past. But I am not sure if this is grammatically and semantically correct. For example:

The team wanted to show the features of the then new Windows XP.

In this case, Windows XP was new. It is not new now. However, does the word "then" imply this meaning?

Also, should it be "then new", or "then-new"?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Yes, it's fine. It means new at the particular time in the past which the speaker or writer has in mind. You don't need a hyphen.

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I agree that a hypen isn't necessary, but it would still be acceptable, wouldn't it? (I think it reads a bit more clearly with the hyphen, but it seems that's mere personal preference.) – J.R. May 24 '12 at 9:03
@J.R. If it's not necessary, why use it? I see it as a distraction rather than as an aid to comprehension. – Barrie England May 24 '12 at 9:13
Erin's link provides an abundance of both – but I very much appreciate your minimalist view regarding punctuation. :^) – J.R. May 24 '12 at 9:28
@J.R. Pragmatic rather than minimalist, I like to think. – Barrie England May 24 '12 at 9:30

This looks correct to me. You can find many examples of your "then new" usage on Google.

Also, your use of "then new" is used 9 times in the usage examples of the OED 2nd Edition, which should be reassuring.

If you still have doubts, a slight rephrasing might help:

"The team wanted to show the features of Windows XP, which was new at the time."

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