Is this acceptably punctuated? En dashes used between the numbers, and hyphens in the compound modifiers. I believe the two examples below are clear and concise. Do you agree with the punctuation (i.e., en dash and hyphens) in each exemplar?

a $3–$5-million-a-year business

a $50,000–$60,000-per-year increase in funding


No, those two not acceptably punctuated — not due to the rule books, but because they don’t pass the smell test around here. Those are way too cumbersome to attempt, no matter whether they’re right or wrong.

However, it’s obvious that if you get to elide the millions, so too the thousands.

But in any event, just because you manage to learn correct English doesn’t mean you’ll ever find anyone whom you can speak it with.

In other words, it will be awkward and stilted no matter what you do so long as you insist on conjoining so many hyphens and dashes. It’s an ungainly punctuation-heavy approach that people would never write that way, even if they might say it that way.

So either leave out some dashes or hyphens, or better yet, rephrase so that these silly is-it-ok-to-use-symbols-and-commas-and-hyphens-and-dashes-with-my-$100–300,000-words-in-one-compound-adjective issues never arise:

  • a $50–60k annual funding increase
  • a small business (that is, one earning $3–5m per year)
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  • Why isn't the $ symbol repeated before 60k and 5m? These abbreviations look like the k for kilometer(s) and the m for meter(s). – whippoorwill Oct 15 '14 at 14:05
  • @whippoorwill Because they just aren’t, that’s why: you have five to ten dollars in your pocket, never five dollars to ten dollars. The prefix dollar symbol $ distributes rightwards across the numbers following it just as the postfix dollar word distributes leftwards across numbers that precede it. It’s simply how it is said and written. As for abbreviations, that’s a shame, but it’s how it’s used. Were they indicative of some metric prefix, there would be a space. You may use capital M for millions if you must. Of course, in programming, these numbers are different. – tchrist Oct 15 '14 at 14:07
  • So the same would apply here, too, right? ---a 70–80% increase ... a $65–70 savings ...don't repeat the % and $ symbols. These two exemplars (lol) look good? – whippoorwill Oct 15 '14 at 14:10
  • And these? a $65–70 million increase; a $100–150,000 savings (good?) – whippoorwill Oct 15 '14 at 14:13
  • Based on your samples, I think these'd fall in line with your way of thinking: a $6-12 million per year job a 10-20% per year increase a $5-10,000 a year job a $1-2 per day charge – whippoorwill Oct 15 '14 at 14:54

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