Consider the list:

experimental economics, behavioral economics, cognitive economics, evolutionary economics, and neuroeconomics.

Well, I am editing a submission with the above list rendered by the author as:

experimental, behavioral, cognitive, evolutionary, and neuroeconomics.

I don't like that. But, I thought, "neuroeconomics" is also acceptable as the hyphenated "neuro-economics." So I wrote out this as a possible alternative:

experimental, behavioral, cognitive, evolutionary, and neuro- economics.

Anyone think that's a reasonable solution?

  • Neuroeconomics is a new one on me, but according to Wikipedia it combines research methods from neuroscience, experimental and behavioral economics, and cognitive and social psychology. So why not just write "Neuroeconomics (including experimental, behavioral, cognitive, and evolutionary economics and psychology)". I doubt it's worth bothering about exactly which of those words are sub-genres of economics, and which are psychology). – FumbleFingers May 11 '14 at 18:16
  • No, neuroeconomics does not contain the others, and as editor of an economics journal, I think that's worth bothering about. So, to the English of it? – Jason May 11 '14 at 18:27
  • 1
    The reason 'neuro' behaves differently to the others in the list is that whist the other qualifiers are words in themselves, 'neuro' is just a prefix, for words like 'neuroscience', which is not hyphenated. I am not sure if this helps you or not? – WS2 May 11 '14 at 18:54
  • Right, so, I want to know if it's OK to do what I've done in the "possible alternative" there. – Jason May 11 '14 at 19:44
  • @Jason: Okay, well if you're in a context where your readership recognise all these terns as referring to clearly-distinct "disciplines" then purely for the sake of stylistic "elegance" I would suggest getting the awkward one out of the way first (and set it off from the others with comma+and). Then let the specific word economics propagate leftwords to attach to all preceding terms... "neuroeconomics, and experimental, behavioral, cognitive, and evolutionary economics." Just out of interest - is evolutionary economics really something different to evolutionary psychology? – FumbleFingers May 11 '14 at 19:45

In its discussion of suspended compounds, Words Into Type, third edition (1974), after counseling avoidance of phrases of the type "in- and out-of-school facilities," has this to say:

Similarly, avoid expressions like the following.

given and surname; cattle and sheepmen

They should be written:

given name and surname; cattlemen and sheepmen

The "given and surname" example matches your author's proposed "experimental, behavioral, cognitive, evolutionary, and neuroeconomics" formulation, except in the number of terms involved.

The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition (2003), is more tolerant of constructions of the type you are considering:

7.89 Hyphen with word space. When the second part of a hyphenated expression is omitted, the hyphen is retained, followed by a word space. [Examples omitted.] Omission of the second part of a solid compound follows the same pattern.

both over- and underfed cats

In Chicago's example, however, both compounds are "solid," whereas in yours, all four of the types of economics identified before neuroeconomics are open word pairs. Unfortunately, hyphenating neuroeconomics as neuro-economics still doesn't put that term on the same footing as the others because they aren't hyphenated compounds any more than they are solid compounds.

If I were dealing with an author who absolutely rejected the obvious approach of repeating the word economics in each of the first four terms of the series, I might offer instead the option

experimental, behavioral, cognitive, neuro-, and evolutionary economics

but really that just amounts to hiding the inconsistency in a slightly less prominent place. You'd be better off going with the wording

experimental economics, behavioral economics, cognitive economics, evolutionary economics, and neuroeconomics

which as the disadvantage of repetitiveness but the advantage of immediate clarity, or with some revision along the lines of

experimental, behavioral, cognitive, and evolutionary economics, as well as neuroeconomics

  • Thanks, Sven, that's very helpful. The last of your three suggestions is one I had in mind as the best of the 'obviously correct' ways to go. I think I will try that one. – Jason May 11 '14 at 23:57

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