Are dashes used for phrases like "more or less"?
closed as not a real question by RegDwighт♦ Sep 22 '12 at 21:22
It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, see the FAQ.
This is not as easy to answer as it might first appear. For a start, the question is not as well stated as it might be - phrases like more or less in what way/s?
How does one tackle the question for the actual phrase given? Googling "more or less" does not return any obvious (without opening) early hyphenated samples (entering the unhyphenated version would not preclude these). Googling "more or less united" to search for degree-modifier usages, which are more likely to be hyphenated, also fails to give early hyphenated examples, but a search for "more or less uniform" gives "More-or-less uniform samples are introduced and used to estimate lengths" and, interestingly, "More-or-Less-Uniform Sampling and Lengths of Curves", as the first non-ad web result.
The punctuation used is the hyphen, which is not the same as the dash (of whatever flavour) - the uses are different.
Compound adjectives and nominal modifiers used in the attributive position are usually hyphenated to avoid ambiguities (the sweet shop-girl v the sweet-shop girl), and this multi-word degree modifier follows suit with an attributive adjective, though I feel more-or-less-uniform is going a little too far (with the third hyphen). When used with predicative adjectives or adverbs, or as a quantifier modifier or prepositional-phrase modifier, more or less does not need (and shouldn't have) the hyphens:
The noise level is more or less uniform.
He left more or less immediately/ He left immediately, more or less.
There were three hundred there, more or less.
It is more or less outside the danger area.