A co-worker asked,"How's it going?" to which I replied,

Oh, it's just as clear as mud as ever!

The context for this is regarding client requirements convolution. The requirements are still unclear. Now 'clear as mud' is a metaphor or colloquialism (don't know which or if either but it's a saying...)

My question is: If I were to write about this, is the above sentence structure correct, or would it be more correct as

Oh, it's just-as-clear-as-mud as ever!

Or is there an even better way?

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    If you wanna be a little snarky about it: "Oh, it's just as clear as ever! Clear as mud." – Dan Bron Aug 14 '14 at 19:40
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    This is a nonce construction; there's not going to be a rule. I'd probably just hyphenate clear-as-mud here. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 14 '14 at 19:43
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    I think the least obtrusive orthographic device available in this context would be put "as clear as mud" in quotes, and/or follow it with either a comma or a dash. In its spoken form, OP's reply is completely unexceptional obviously. The problem only arises because the "unadorned" written version is awkward to parse. – FumbleFingers Aug 14 '14 at 20:37
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    In my view the thing that makes it sound awkward are the two instances of 'as', used in different senses, separated by a single word. I think I might say 'Clear as mud, like it always is!' – WS2 Aug 14 '14 at 20:45

Hyphens aren’t necessary here. You’re combining “just as X as ever” with “(as) clear as mud”. I can see how you might be thrown off by the repetition of “as”—a lot of spoken constructions simply look odd in writing. In that case, you could make a slight change in wording:

It’s clear as mud, as ever.

  • But you still have two instances of 'as'. See my comment above. – WS2 Aug 14 '14 at 20:46
  • @WS2: I understand. You could use like always, for example. But why is that a “but”? – Jon Purdy Aug 14 '14 at 20:58
  • Because you noted double use of 'as' as problematic, and yet your solution kept them both. I don't think I would say simply like always. You can of course, if you wish. – WS2 Aug 14 '14 at 21:02
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    The twin occurrences of 'as' are perfectly distinct in meaning here. Only a beginning learner of English might be expected to stumble over the difference. – Erik Kowal Aug 15 '14 at 4:02
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    English doesn't obey the rules of algebra. You can't substitute an apparently equivalent expression into a slot and expect an acceptable result. *He's as wise as Solomon as ever. *She's as regular as clockwork as ever. OP's is a quirky coinage, and, in written form, needs to be marked as such, out of consideration for the poor reader. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 15 '14 at 10:09

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