Without recasting and in lieu of unsightly suspensive hyphenation, could these work? The en dash (which means "to") is used between the figures, and the hyphens are used in the compound modifier. To me, the examples below are concise and clear.

Do you agree that the examples below are 100% punctuated correctly--yes or no?

45–50-year-old men

10–20-mile radius

$45–$55-million-per-year industry

$100,000–$150,000-a-year savings

10–15-degree temperature difference

$2–$5-per-day service fees

45–75-cent-a-week raises

55–65-mph speed zone

15–20-ounce steaks

20%–40%-a-year tax increases

  • I think most writers don't include a hyphen between the numeric value and the "units" expression. – FumbleFingers Oct 12 '14 at 15:18
  • Is this what you meant (without the hyphens)? – whippoorwill Oct 12 '14 at 15:28
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    Personally I don't see suspensive hyphenation as "unsightly"; "45- to 50-year-old men" and "10- to 20-mile radius" look just fine to me. – Hellion Oct 12 '14 at 15:29
  • If we use suspensive hyphenation, which of the following looks best? – whippoorwill Oct 12 '14 at 15:31
  • @whippoorwill: I don't know what you meant there. I meant that when people write 60 70 mph speed they usually put a hyphen between the upper/lower range values, but not between the upper range and the units (in that case, mph). – FumbleFingers Oct 12 '14 at 15:39

It works, and it's technically unexceptionable; but I think it should be avoided. Hyphens and en-dashes are not readily distinguished on swift or casual reading, and the typographical convention of marking ranges with en-dashes rather than hyphens is not so universally followed that you can count on your readers recognizing its significance. Consequently, ##–#-xx-xx is not an easy construction to follow.

I urge you, as a courtesy to your readers, to employ “suspensive hyphenation”—##- to ##-xx-xxx—however unsightly you find it. I think that few of your readers will share your aesthetic objections (I don't), and most will appreciate your consideration (I would).

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  • If you're used to documents with top-notch typesetting, I think it'd be entirely unremarkable, but typesetting these days is something publishers like skimp on and so you're lucky to get an m-dash instead of two hyphens =\ – user0721090601 Oct 12 '14 at 16:37
  • Okay, so for the suspended hyphenation I'd do this, right? – whippoorwill Oct 12 '14 at 16:45
  • 45- to 50-year-old men 10- to 20-mile radius $45 million- to $55 million-per-year industry $100,000- to $150,000-a-year savings 10- to 15-degree temperature difference $2- to $5-per-day service fees 45- to 75-cent-a-week raises 55- to 65-mph speed zone 15- to 20-ounce steaks 20%- to 40%-a-year tax increases – whippoorwill Oct 12 '14 at 16:47
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    You don't need to use any hyphens when what you have is a basic unit. So only 55 to 65 mph speed zone (or 55-65 mph speed zone), there's no reason to use a hyphen directly between numbers and units unless they are connected to yet another word (as in 5-foot-tall) and collectively function as a single adjective. – user0721090601 Oct 12 '14 at 17:03
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    @guifa And a publisher who cares is going to have his own house rules anyway. – StoneyB on hiatus Oct 12 '14 at 17:34

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