2

Problem:

"viewers can watch more realistic 3D scenes and interact..."

Do I need to hyphenate "more realistic" here?

I think I do, as the compound modifier "more realistic" is modifying "3D scenes". Otherwise, a reader may perceive this as viewers can watch more of something.

5
  • Possible duplicate of When is it necessary to use a hyphen in writing a compound word?
    – user140086
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 5:41
  • How is it so? Please give a concrete example or reference. Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 5:48
  • Related question, Less-experienced vs less experienced employee.
    – user140086
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 5:49
  • I'm sorry, but I can't see how this helps to answer my question. The word "realistic" is an adjective here, right? How about the word "more"? What function does it serve in this example? Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 5:54
  • 1
    I think the hyphen is necessary to distinguish the two scenarios: to watch more of something and to watch "more-realistic" somethings, no? Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 6:01

4 Answers 4

3

Some U.S. style guides recommend hyphenating a "more [adjective]" phrase when the writer's intention is to express more in its qualitative (rather than quantitative) sense. The first step in enforcing this distinction is to see whether the phrase without hyphenation could be read as using more in a quantitative sense. In the poster's example, the phrase

viewers can watch more realistic 3D scenes and interact

can indeed be interpreted as using more qualitatively to convey the meaning

viewers can watch additional realistic 3D scenes and interact

or it can be interpreted as using more quantitatively to convey the meaning

viewers can watch relatively realistic 3D scenes and interact

If you consistently hyphenate the "more-[adjective]" term when you mean it qualitatively—and you consistently leave the "more [adjective]" term open when mean it quantitatively—in constructions that are ambiguous as written, you give readers a clear signal of how you want them to interpret the phrase. This result is the goal that The Chicago Manual of Style, fifteenth edition (2003) promotes in its discussion of hyphens and readability:

7.85 Hyphens and readability. A hyphen can make for easier reading by showing structure and, often, pronunciation. Words that might otherwise be misread, such as re-creation, should be hyphenated. Hyphens can also eliminate ambiguity. ... Similarly, the hyphen in much-needed clothing shows that the clothing is badly needed rather than abundant and needed. Where no ambiguity could result, as in public welfare administration or graduate student housing, hyphenation is not mandatory, though it is quite acceptable and preferred by many writers and editors.

In Chicago's presentation, "much-needed clothing" (qualitative much) and "much needed clothing" (quantitative much) correspond to "more-realistic 3D scenes" (qualitative more) and "more realistic 3D scenes" (quantitative more) in the poster's example.

Obviously, Chicago's approach isn't the only way to deal with hyphenating (or not) compound modifiers that start with more; but if done consistently, it offers readers the tangible benefit of reducing the number of ambiguous constructions in a text.

1

"viewers can watch a more realistic 3D scene and interact..."

"a more realistic" –Google, +20 million hits

1
  • Yes, this appears to be a way around the problem. However, I think the original question still stands in its own right. I also rephrased to "watch 3D scenes of a more realistic nature and interact..." Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 8:08
0

The hyphen is not appropriate.

"More" in the sentence is functioning as an adverb which describes the word immediately following it, "realistic."

If "more" were intended to describe the number of scenes, then it would function as an adjective. If it were an adjective, then it would need to be separated from the other adjectives preceding the noun by commas, e.g., "more, realistic, 3D scenes."

3D also functions as an adjective in this sentence. Remember, 3D is simply an abbreviation of three-dimensional. As you have written it originally, you appear to be describing the three-dimensionality of the scenes as more realistic. Since three-dimensionality is not a property that is reasonably subject to amplification, of course people naturally infer that you mean to describe the scenes as more realistic. In truth, though, to properly punctuate, you really should use a comma between realistic and 3D. The proper punctuation of the phrase is "more realistic, 3D scenes."

16
  • Thank you for your response. However, I disagree with you about the fact that the sentence is describing the three-dimensionality of the scenes as being more realistic. I think of "3D scenes" as a noun phrase. So, the "more realistic" part seems to be functioning as an adjective of this noun phrase, no? Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 8:06
  • Your so-called proper punctuation "more realistic, 3D scenes" leaves me thinking whether this can be interpreted as "more (as in, additional) realistic and three-dimensional scenes"; that is, we have a pair of coordinate adjectives. Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 8:11
  • Realistic is not a noun that can be subject to multiplication and therefore the use of more (as in additional) is nonsensical. More (additional) and more (to a greater degree) are simply homonyms. The punctuation helps us to clarify which of the homonyms is actually being used. Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 8:22
  • I didn't suggest that realistic is a noun. Further, "more realistic" is functioning as a comparative adjective, right? Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 8:31
  • All combinations of nouns and the terms that modify them are noun phrases. "More realistic, 3D scenes" is itself a noun phrase. It appears you mean to call 3d scenes a compound noun. The only reason it would be considered a compound noun is if there was some sort of convention around it, as is the case with something high school. Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 8:31
0

I don't think hyphenation of more and realistic would be as much a solution as putting a comma or and between the two if you want more to modify scenes.

Viewers can watch more, (or and) realistic 3D scenes and interact...

There could ambiguity in your sentence where more could be seen modifying either realistic or scenes if you don't pay close attention to whether there is a comma or not.

If you replace more with additional, I think your problem is solved if you want more to modify scenes.

Viewers can watch additional, realistic 3D scenes and interact...

If you want more to modify realistic and mean there are more scenes, you could rephrase it to:

Viewers can watch additional, more realistic 3D scenes and interact...

The adjective additional could be placed before 3D, but it is less idiomatic than the above sentence.

5
  • I don't understand why a comma is necessary in your suggestions. "Viewers can watch additional realistic scenes..." - what's wrong with this? "Viewers can watch additional more realistic scenes..." - what's wrong with this? Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 8:17
  • @RobertAstle If you forget about 3D for a while and contrast "Viewers can watch more scenes and viewers can watch realistic scenes", you coordinate this sentence by omitting repeated words to "Viewers can watch more, realistic scenes in the same way "She is a beautiful girl and she is a kind girl" to "She is a beautiful, kind girl". You need comma or and.
    – user140086
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 8:21
  • You have combined "viewers can watch more of something" and "viewers can watch a type of something". This is nonsensical. Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 8:50
  • @RobertAstle That's why I close-voted your question. No more comment.
    – user140086
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 8:51
  • What do you mean? What does close-voted my question mean? Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 8:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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