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I am unclear of the need for hyphens here:

It was French in design, with elaborate English rococo inspired wainscoting.

Should it be English-rococo-inspired wainscoting or is it fine as is? It certainly looks "nicer" without the hyphens, and adding a comma after elaborate makes the sentence look too "busy". Help, please.

  • I read the sentence three times before I understood it; though garish, appropriate hyphenation would've prevented the issue. Another fix would be to rephrase the sentence as It was French in design, with elaborate wainscoting inspired by English rococo. – Anonym Nov 3 '15 at 18:07
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Strictly speaking, it should be "English-rococo-inspired wainscoting." See this blog for a great summary.

However, hyphenation is one of those areas in which educated grammarians tend to disagree. I would ask yourself whether the meaning is clear without the hyphens. For example, is it possible that your reader may think that the wainscoting is elaborate, and English, and inspired by rococo? For those unfamiliar with English rococo, that is plausible. Using the hyphens would remove such a misinterpretation.

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