They gave me plenty of letters. All of them heart-wrenching and soul-deep/soul deep.

I know you should use soul-deep in examples like soul-deep anguish or soul-deep love. But I'm not very sure in this particular case.

Google books shows both versions. So, I'm confused.

  • The examples you have found don't look too authoritative in any case. If you really want to use the unusual compound adjective here, either is 'allowable', but the tendency is to drop hyphens for non-attributive usage where no confusion will result. Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 13:39
  • I don't find adjectival soul-deep particularly idiomatic, regardless of how it's written. It just sounds like something you'd get in a bad translation (or mawkish song lyrics, maybe). Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 14:09
  • Generally, when you use a noun in to modify an adjective that modifies a noun, as in "soul deep love" you use the hyphen -- "soul-deep love". But when the noun-adjective pair does not directly modify a noun the choice is not as clear. (Note that the main intent here is simply to make it easier to read the sentence and get it's intended meaning. When spoken, the hyphenated "soul-deep" would typically be said with less than the normal pause between words, cluing the listener that the words are connected. The hyphen makes this apparent in print.)
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 17:42

1 Answer 1


If Google books shows both, then probably both are acceptable. But it might make more sense to hyphenate in this case, because 1. "soul deep", with or without a hyphen, is not an incredibly common phrase and 2. hyphenating it will keep it sort of parallel to "heart-wrenching"

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