Suppose I know two professors. Both of them are old, and both of them study English. Then each one is an old English professor.

Suppose one and only one of them is a scholar of Old English. Then that one would be an Old English professor.

So far this is unambiguous, according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_compound#Hyphenated_compound_modifiers

But now I have a question about the other professor.

Is he a non-Old English professor or a non-Old-English professor?

  • There would thus be no Old English professor of that sort, but a professor of/in Old English. You can find an old English professor anywhere, though if you note the capitalization.
    – Kris
    Dec 8, 2016 at 8:46
  • There are old Old English professors and there are bald Old English professors. There are even old, bald Old English professors, but there are no old, bold Old English professors.
    – Mick
    Dec 8, 2016 at 9:31

1 Answer 1


I asked on Facebook, and a friend pointed out that the Chicago Manual of Style answers this question with the example "non–United States citizen":


Answer: use an en-dash. So, "non–Old English professor" instead of "non-Old English professor".

Your Answer

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

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