I know that a compound adjective preceding a noun would require hyphenation in most circumstances; however, this particular phrasing has me doubting myself and I'd just like some clarification, if possible.

With the following, if this comes at the end of a sentence, should it be hyphenated?

'...1.65 million square feet.'

My gut is telling me no, because there is no noun following it, but I'm not 100% certain.

Many thanks,



A full-sentence example for this query would be:

'The total build of the structure covered 1.65 million square feet.'

It's the '1.65 million square feet' section of that sentence that I'm querying.

Sorry for any confusion my initial post created.

  • 1
    Can you edit your question to include a complete sentence please, and indicate where you think the hyphen might go? – Max Williams Apr 7 '16 at 16:30
  • I can't think of any situation in which '1.65 million square feet' should be hyphenated. Most major U.S. style guides would leave it open when it appears as in your example sentence, and most would recommend changing feet to foot in situations where the phrase functions as a modifier (and therefore should be hyphenated), as in "The structure covered a 1.65-million-square-foot area." – Sven Yargs Apr 9 '16 at 22:24
  • Thanks, Sven. I should have clarified that I'm writing for a British audience so would therefore be following British grammar systems but I'm fairly sure this particular issue would be consistent across the board. Appreciate your comments. – Celeryshed Apr 11 '16 at 0:11
  • From Oxford Style Manual (2003): "All units of measurement retain their singular form when they are compounded to form hyphenated adjectives before other nouns: [example] a 1,000-megaton bomb[.] Elsewhere, units are pluralized as necessary, but not if the quantity or number is less than one: [example] 0.568 litre[.]" This advice doesn't directly address your question, but working backward from what it does say, hyphenation is appropriate only if the measurement appears as an adjective, and the unit of measure should be plural (e.g., "square feet") if the quantity is greater than 1. – Sven Yargs Apr 14 '16 at 0:18
  • Thank you, Sven. That really does help me out and I greatly appreciate your efforts on this. – Celeryshed Apr 15 '16 at 0:40

Well you weren't very clear as to what exactly you are considering to hyphenate. "1.65-million square feet", "1.65-million-square feet", "1.65-million-square-feet" or some other combination. Either way you should do none of those.

As you can see from this, "square feet" is rarely, or in fact almost never hyphenated.

And just like you stated, you should only hyphenate if you are making a compound adjective. In the part of a sentence "1.65 million square feet", million and square are actually nouns, not adjectives.

Don't forget that we use hyphens with nouns sometimes too, but we only use them in some well-established cases; therefore, you can't put a hyphen between any two nouns that you desire. You can check in a dictionary whether a compound noun that you want to use is correct or not.

The rules on whether to put a hyphen, a space, or nothing between the words in a compound noun are inconsistent. It is best to use a spellchecker or a dictionary to see what versions of the word are acceptable. There is sometimes a requirement to use a hyphen(s) to eliminate ambiguity. (from here)

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  • Thanks for your reply, Random Dude. As you can see, I've edited my initial response to save any previous ambiguity. My initial confusion was brought about as I had the example of '18-year-old boy' in my head and couldn't see the difference between that and '1.65-million square feet'. Thanks again. – Celeryshed Apr 9 '16 at 17:14

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