1. "I always excelled at database and literature mining".
  2. "I always excelled at database- and literature mining".
  3. "I always excelled at database- and literature-mining".

What's the preferred version? In #1 "database" is too detached and may be interpreted as standalone. But since no hyphen is required between "literature" and "mining", it seems incongruous to put one after "database". What do you think?

  • Given the word order you use in your example, misinterpreting the sense of the hyphenless version of the sentence takes some effort. The case would be different if the sentence read "I always excelled at literature and database mining" and you intended "literature" to stand for "literature mining." But in that case I think the sentence would look better as "I always excelled at literature mining and database mining" than as "I always excelled at literature- and database-mining." The no-hyphen alternative is apt to be misread in that instance, and option #2 looks disturbingly odd (to me).
    – Sven Yargs
    Oct 14, 2015 at 18:09

1 Answer 1


Sentence #1 is fine, no hyphen necessary. Suspending "I've always excelled at" without a verb leaves the reader looking for it, and quickly finding it at the end of the sentence. If you want to be less German about it and put the meaning up front, you could say "I always excelled at mining both databases and literature."

  • Hello, Elby. On ELU, answers lacking supporting evidence (here, from at least a style guide) come across as (and may actually be) no more than personal opinion. Mar 20, 2018 at 10:52

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.