Is the following sentence clear enough without hyphens?

He applied for the assistant store manager trainee position.

Or should it be:

He applied for the assistant-store-manager-trainee position.

Or for another example,

I like chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.


I like chocolate-chip-cookie-dough ice cream.

Would you write these with or without the hyphens? Unfortunately, I cannot recast.

I think that in these examples, the inclusion of hyphens is somewhat distracting, and we should write these phrases as presented above (i.e., without any hyphens whatsoever). Do you agree?

  • 1
    I think you do need hyphens for clarification. But it helps if you can rationalise your sentences so as to limit the number. I might, for example, say : He applied for the trainee assistant-store-manager position. (I do think trainee should go first). I don't know anything about chocolate, ice-cream etc. I'm trying to kill all that stuff before it kills me.
    – WS2
    Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 0:44
  • Thank you, WS2. I also think that "a $100-million-to-$150-million-a-year industry" needs full hyphenation throughout (as shown in this example), including hyphens on both sides of the word "to". Agreed? Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 0:56
  • 1
    I think I would just say a $100 to $150 million-per-year industry. I don't think you need hyphens either side of the to. And you don't need to repeat the word million. Everybody knows you are talking in millions. With hyphenation, I would say - let practicality and common sense be your guide.
    – WS2
    Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 9:22
  • I think you need to place "million" after $100 in your example above because $100 could be initially construed as a hundred dollars. Commented Dec 19, 2015 at 6:09
  • Well, if I was speaking I would say a one-hundred to one-hundred and fifty million-per-year industry. It depends on how formally accurate you want to be.
    – WS2
    Commented Dec 19, 2015 at 9:15

1 Answer 1


Assuming the compounds are the parenthesized items here,

(((assistant (store manager)) trainee) position)

and you should use hyphens between the parts of a compound if it is part of a hyphenated compound, you can use from zero to four hyphens. One hyphen looks best to me.

Similarly, assuming

((((chocolate chip) cookie) dough) (ice cream))

which has dough for chocolate-chip cookies, or perhaps

(((chocolate chip) (cookie dough)) (ice cream))

which has cookie dough made with chocolate chips.


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