Without recasting, would you include hyphens in any of the examples below? I think they're clear, as is, without them. If you would use hyphens, where would you put them? I know there are rules governing the use of hyphens in compound modifiers, but I think that because clarity is not compromised we can avoid hyphens in these four examples. The intended meaning is certainly clear without them; do you concur with all four as they stand below?

a $100 million to $150 million a year industry

an $11 a barrel price

a 10 to 20 percent a year increase

a 20% to 25% a year increase

Thank you.

  • 2
    Unless you are writing for a nit-picky journal, there are no hard-and-fast rules for this. Generally, hyphens are used for words (which are not "natural" adjectives) which are combined to function as a single adjective. But the purpose of this is to make the text clearer and easier to understand, and in many cases (such as some of the "to" cases above) this can be more confusing and distracting than helpful.
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 9, 2016 at 1:21
  • Confused, sorry. So do you prefer all my examples above without hyphens? Are they easy to parse without the hyphens as presented? Thanks, Hot Licks.
    – FuzzyNavel
    Oct 9, 2016 at 2:09
  • 1
    The last three would probably read better as trailing modifiers: "a price of $11 a barrel", "an increase of 10 to 20% annually". The first is awkward regardless; certainly adding hyphens would not clarify it at all, but rearranging it would probably help a lot.
    – Hellion
    Oct 9, 2016 at 2:09
  • Thanks, Hellion. These are used in direct, quoted speech (i.e., a court transcript) so I cannot alter. That said, do the four look okay without the hyphens as originally presented? Did you have a problem parsing them upon first reading them? BTW, we do not have an 'official' style guide at my job, surprisingly, for these types of scenarios.
    – FuzzyNavel
    Oct 9, 2016 at 2:15
  • 1
    You might use hyphens in the "$11-a-barrel" case. The others are iffier, since the "to" structure leaves you with the need to do, eg, "10- to 20-percent-a-year", and that dangling hyphen is ugly and confusing in its own right. (Plus, hyphens typically aren't used with "percent" or "a year", since they don't tend to create confusion as to which word associates with which.)
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 9, 2016 at 2:44

1 Answer 1


There are several relevant guidelines from The Chicago Manual of Style. I won't quote them, but it would look like this:

$100 million- to $150 million-a-year industry.

$11-a-barrel price

10 to 20 percent a year increase [this one in particular I would reword]

20% to 25% a year increase [percentages always open]

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