I'm checking a technical paper submission and came across the phrase

We propose spherical Gaussian based approximations to calculate this analytically.

and wondering if this needs a hyphen or not. I'm inclined towards

spherical Gaussian-based

but could it also be


which is what some of the other questions on hyphenation here are based on.

  • Please provide the complete sentence that contains the words you are asking about. – tunny Nov 10 '14 at 7:03
  • 1
    Is the Gaussian spherical? spherical-Gaussian-based approximations. Are approximations spherical? spherical Gaussian-based approximations. If it is your proposition that a spherical fellow named Gaussian did base his approximations in order to calculate this analytically (unlikely, but hey), then spherical Gaussian based approximations. – Amadan Nov 10 '14 at 7:45
  • Also related to english.stackexchange.com/questions/51665/… – elachell Mar 29 '17 at 10:21

In most U.S. English style guides, the decision about whether to double- or single-hyphenate a phrase such as "spherical Gaussian based approximations" rests on whether the first word in the string attaches primarily to the noun or primarily to the modifier closer to the noun. In other words, if you are talking about Gaussian-based approximations that are spherical, you would normally use a single hyphen:

We propose spherical Gaussian-based approximations to calculate this analytically.

But if you are talking about the kind of Gaussian basis (namely, spherical) that underlies the approximations, you would normally use two hyphens:

We propose spherical-Gaussian-based approximations to calculate this analytically.

I don't know anything about this area of physics (or mathematics), but it seems to me likely that the first of these associations is the one that the writer intends here, which would make the single-hyphen approach suitable.

| improve this answer | |
  • It's actually related to lighting in a real-time graphics applications. Judging by other phrases in the paper, these are Gaussian's of a spherical nature. Thanks for your input. – psd Nov 10 '14 at 8:43

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