I have the following taken from a paper that I am editing:

… proposed a water-filling factor aided search method to solve …

My question is related to whether I should use an en dash to connect the adjectives here, as in:

… water-filling factor–aided search method …

Can anyone please help me out? Is this understandable? Is this the correct way to do it?

Is “water-filling-factor-aided search method”, all with hyphens, a little weird?

  • You may not need any hyphens within the noun-phrase: water filling factor so you could say "...water filling factor-aided search method..." the hyphen at the last word of the noun phrase should suffice. However, check also the applicable style guide. This is apparently a patent-related document.
    – Kris
    Jun 18 '14 at 6:36
  • Are we allowed to suggest rephrasing? ("[...] proposed a search method making use of a water-filling factor [...]")
    – ruakh
    Jun 18 '14 at 6:56
  • Thank you for your comments. However, can anyone answer the question regarding the use of the en dash here. Jun 18 '14 at 7:02
  • 2
    I don't think you'd ever use an en-dash instead of a hyphen. As @Kris says, look to the style guide of the publication in question, or rephrase it. (As an aside, in many typefaces it can be hard to tell the difference between a hyphen and an en-dash.) Jun 18 '14 at 10:39
  • @MartinMcCallion +1 See also, my comment at Peter Shor below.
    – Kris
    Jun 19 '14 at 5:33

Some style guides (see website) do advise en-dashes in cases like that, but not all of them do.

If you're not writing for some publication with a style guide that specifies this, I would suggest using whichever style you prefer.

From what the website above says, the Chicago Manual of Style would suggest an en-dash:

water-filling factor–aided search method.

  • The journal that I edit for does follow CMOS. So, thank you for your comment. Jun 19 '14 at 0:59
  • +1 Though I had known that, I would say, since the OP did not mention CMOS, it may be better to advocate a more general style with the proviso that any applicable style guide should be consulted first. Esp., for reasons like "in many typefaces it can be hard to tell the difference between a hyphen and an en-dash." (Martin's comment at OP)
    – Kris
    Jun 19 '14 at 5:32
  • @Kris: What "more general" style is more widely used than the CMOS? Jun 19 '14 at 12:45
  • @PeterShor CMOS is not a general style.
    – Kris
    Jun 19 '14 at 14:58
  • @Kris: I don't know what your talking about. Wikipedia says the Chicago Manual of Style is "one of the most widely used and respected style guides in the United States." A definition of general is not confined by specialization or careful limitation. If the CMOS is not a general style guide, what is? Jun 19 '14 at 15:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.