I have been taught that when creating compound modifiers, a hyphen (-) should be used if the compound consists of two words, while an en-dash (–) is used if the compound consists of three or more words:

I am Vancouver-based journalist.

You are a New York–based journalist.

She is a Rio de Janeiro–based journalist.

I have also been taught that when listing multiple compound modifiers that share a common base(?), one can use a suspended hyphen to avoid repetition:

He is a Canada-, US-, and Brazil-based journalist.

My question, finally, is how these two rules work together. Are the following sentences correct?

I am a New York– and Vancouver-based journalist.

You are a Vancouver- and New York–based journalist.

She is a Rio de Janeiro–, Vancouver-, and New York–based journalist.

  • 5
    Do you have a source you can cite for the rule you were taught about using an en dash in this situation? – JLG Mar 6 '17 at 18:38
  • 1
    I never heard of the en-dash used as a hyphen. It's a great idea to make that distinction, but not ready for prime time if others don't recognize what you are doing. – Yosef Baskin Mar 6 '17 at 20:00
  • 1
    FWIW, I've seen an en dash used instead of a hyphen when denoting a construct that has components, such as a "key-value pair". What is meant is a pair composed of a key and a value. Another example might be a "copy-paste operation", meaning copy plus paste. I don't have a reference for this, but I do think it can make things clearer. – Drew Mar 6 '17 at 20:33
  • 2
    I had never heard of the en-dash as a hyphen either until a google search revealed this source (see the bottom section on compound adjectives). Note the language "some writers," which along with these comments may indicate that this practice is not very common. – vpn Mar 6 '17 at 20:49

You are, of course, correct in your usage of en-dashes to connect a prefix to a proper open compound (I'm surprised this is not more generally known). Your solution of mixing hyphen and en-dash is a good one; style manuals will vary on this (if they consider it at all). The U.S. Government Printing Office would have you write U.S. with the periods (U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual, Chapter 9 - Abbreviations and Letter Symbols).

  • Welcome to EL&U. Note, this site is different from others: it's not a forum for opinions. Instead, an answer on EL&U is expected to be authoritative, detailed, and explain why it is correct. Can I suggest you edit your answer to provide evidence for your assertion about correctness? Does the USGPO provide guidance on the matter? See How to Answer for further guidance, and take the EL&U Tour. :-) – Chappo Says Reinstate Monica Dec 29 '18 at 23:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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