In one of my graphs, I have label called "Aggravated Assault Arrests". Is it correct to say I do not need a hyphen between the words - "aggravated" and "assault"?

If I refer to this in my writing, is it correct for me to say "aggravated assault arrests" without any hyphen?

2 Answers 2


Ah, the difference between legal language and style guides!

In law, it's "aggravated assault." But styles guides will tell you it's a compound modifier, so it's "aggravated-assault arrests."

Since hyphens should be avoided if possible, and since the law leaves them out, and you're dealing with the legal term on your graph, I'd leave them out as well.

  • I'm not sure it's got anything to do with it being a legal term. Many people would write "science fiction films", not "science-fiction films". It is more to do with this: "Do not use a hyphen unless it serves a purpose. If a compound adjective cannot be misread or [...] its meaning is established, a hyphen is not necessary." (apastyle.org/learn/faqs/when-use-hyphen.aspx; this is just one style guide example). "Aggravated assault" is "established" (especially but not only in a crime/law context) and is therefore unlikely to be misinterpreted when used as a compound modifier.
    – nxx
    Feb 25, 2014 at 1:20

You surely do not mean to say the arrests were aggravated. Hyphenate and disambiguate.

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