A type of gel designed to emulate human skin tissue.
So, is this a "human skin tissue–emulating gel" (en dash)?
Or, is it a "human-skin-tissue-emulating gel" (all hyphens)?
Does anyone know the correct hyphenation of such a term?
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
You need to figure out the structure of the phrase (or word), then put a hyphen between the most closely connected elements, which will be those that make a unit with each other but with no other element. I think the structure is:
[[human [skin tissue]] emulating] gel
and if that's right, the two most closely connected elements are "skin" and "tissue", so then the hyphenation would be: "human skin-tissue emulating gel".
The reason I think that is the structure for this complicated compound is a series of paraphrases we can make. It's a gel for [human skin-tissue emulating] -- that connects the 4 elements "human", "skin", "tissue", and "emulating", and those are bracketed in the structure I gave.
And, something that is for human skin-tissue emulating is for emulating [human skin-tissue]. And human skin-tissue is the [skin-tissue] of a human.
You need a hyphen between the words tissue and emulating, but nowhere else.
The reason is that skin is simply an attributive noun to tissue (it functions as a adjective), and human is also an attributive noun. Thus human and skin are just cascading "adjectives" that do not combine into a single unit with tissue, and therefore do not require multiple hyphens.
So the correct way to write your phrase is
human skin tissue-emulating gel