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Pluralization rule for “five-year-old children”, “20 pound note”, “10 mile run”

Mr. Willow’s more than forty-year experience in the industry persuaded me to apply.

Or is the following a better way of saying it?

Mr. Willow's more than forty years of experience in the industry persuaded me to apply.

Are they both correct, or should the hyphen in the first example be removed?

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What research have you done in this? Or is this just a proofreading question? –  tchrist Aug 30 '12 at 15:38
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marked as duplicate by tchrist, MετάEd, Matt Эллен, Mark Beadles, Mitch Sep 12 '12 at 19:51

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2 Answers

The first is fine. From the Guardian style guide hyphen entry:

There is no need to use hyphens with most compound adjectives, where the meaning is clear and unambiguous without: civil rights movement, financial services sector, work inspection powers, etc. Hyphens should, however, be used to form short compound adjectives, eg two-tonne vessel, three-year deal, 19th-century artist. Also use hyphens where not using one would be ambiguous, eg to distinguish "black-cab drivers come under attack" from "black cab-drivers come under attack". A missing hyphen in a review of Chekhov's Three Sisters led us to refer to "the servant abusing Natasha", rather than "the servant-abusing Natasha".

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There is a problem it's not where you think it is.

You're actually completely missing a word in the first sentence. You're comparing "more than", but more than that what?

Mr. Willows's more than forty-year long experience ...

That would be the correct version.

The second sentence is correct and needs no changes.

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Long isn't needed; indeed is wrong as shown. One might write “Mr. Willow's forty-year-long experience ...”, but better, “Mr. Willow's forty-year experience ...”. If the odious more than has to be there, it probably should be hyphenated: “Mr. Willow's more-than-forty-year experience ...” –  jwpat7 Aug 30 '12 at 16:24
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