I would like to express the circumstance that a device is something like a cash register, but not quite the same. I would like to append the suffix '-like' to do so.

However, I am unsure how to write this down correctly, for 'cash register' are actually two words.

Would I write

a cash-register-like device.

or rather

a cash register-like device.

Or neither of them?

  • 3
    We've had this before; I think the consensus was that the doubly-hyphenated variant caused less confusion, showing that 'cash register' is compound, re-instating a perhaps lost hyphen. However, 'device [rather / somewhat] like a cash register' or 'device resembling / in some ways like a cash register' sound far more natural. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 19 '15 at 9:16
  • or perhaps "'cash-register' like device". Could you not rephrase to something along the lines of 'similar to a cash register'? I think the usage of '-like' is adequate in whichever form you choose, provided it is an informal usage, I'm not sure it's usage as a term portrays well in more formal applications. (But this is just opinion really) – nickson104 Jun 19 '15 at 9:16

Follow the direction of the manual of style you have chosen or the one thrust upon you. I use The Chicago Manual of Style, which prescribes that -like formations are solid (no hyphens) -- catlike -- except

  1. with proper names, Starbucks-like coffee shop,
  2. words ending in ll, a gill-like slit,
  3. compound words, a cash-register-like device.
  • Which subsets (solid ...) of compound words? Does CMOS include an open-form to hyphenated-form conversion (as with cash register ==> cash-register-like)? – Edwin Ashworth Jun 19 '15 at 9:31

I'd regard cash-register-like as clumsy, or some kind of adjective fetish. :)

A device like a cash-register.

large-hadron-collider-like device.

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