I want to talk about things being either “laminodental or apicodental”, but would rather avoid repeating “dental”. Omission of the second part of hyphenated compounds is straightforward (e.g., “user- and hardware-friendly”). But I’m not mad about the asymmetric hyphenation of:

lamino- and apicodental

nor do I want to have hyphens in both places:

lamino- and apico-dental

given that I would normally write “apicodental” without a hyphen.

My go-to style guide, the Economist’s, is silent on this point. Is anyone aware of any established practices in this regard?

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  • Related, but crucially different: like the link I gave above concerning user- and hardware-friendly, that question concerns cases where the rightmost compound is already hyphenated. Oct 16, 2013 at 10:31
  • These are often called suspended hyphens.
    – user28567
    Oct 16, 2013 at 10:41
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    Thanks for the terminology (hanging hyphens sounds pretty nice too). The link gives two endorsements of my preferred option: “For example, preoperative and postoperative becomes pre- and postoperative (not pre- and post-operative) in AMA or APA style when suspended.” Oct 16, 2013 at 10:43
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    @snailboat: I'm going with lamino- and apicodental, based in large part on what the link you gave says about the AMA and APA styles—exactly the kind of references I was after. If you want to post answer, I’ll tick it. Oct 17, 2013 at 18:03

2 Answers 2


These are often called suspended hyphens. From Wikipedia:

A suspended hyphen ... may be used when a single base word is used with separate, consecutive, hyphenated words which are connected by "and", "or", or "to". For example, nineteenth-century and twentieth-century may be written as nineteenth- and twentieth-century. ... [P]reoperative and postoperative becomes pre- and postoperative (not pre- and post-operative) in AMA or APA style when suspended.

So it appears that two widely used style guides recommend writing lamino- and apicodental.


lamino- and apico-dental

will be your only choice.

Irrespective of whether apico-dental is normally written hyphenated or otherwise, in the specific sentence you need to hyphenate it, in order that lamino- will know where to go prefix itself.

"lamino- and apicodental" could theoretically be read as "lamino- and api-codental" and such other monstrosities! (The prefix ending 'o' helps but does not rule.)

  • This answer is at odds with some useful links in the comments above (some of which deserve to be answers IME). I wouldn't choose to introduce terms with which the reader may be unfamiliar this way, meaning that the ambiguity is removed in the grouping.
    – Chris H
    Oct 16, 2013 at 13:11
  • @ChrisH Care to explain? Your comment & down vote can have a cascading effect.
    – Kris
    Oct 17, 2013 at 6:36
  • simply that the above comments show, with support, that the asymmetric approach is acceptable, even preferred You strongly state an opinion ("only choice"), only supported by the comment that the reader will not know where to split the hyphenation, which is rarely the case, as the words should be comprehensible in context. I don't honestly care about a cascade, I using the voting process as intended, and explained why I disagreed with your answer. Maybe the other downvoters would care to chip in, and maybe one of the commenters above could convert their comment(s) into an answer.
    – Chris H
    Oct 17, 2013 at 9:39
  • The fact that the result of the the application of a rule can theoretically be ambiguous does not invalidate the rule. Language is often ambiguous and must always be read with the context in mind. Here, the writer can expect the reader to know or surmise that "lamonicodental" is nonsense. On the other hand, writing "apico-dental" is a quite strong deformation of a word that is otherwise never hyphenated. The ambiguity argument for hyphention is just not strong enough to justify this deformation, especially not in the apodictic way it is expressed in this answer, as the "only choice".
    – Joe7
    Jan 10, 2023 at 11:58

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