How do I correctly hyphenate this phrase:

  • using a client (browser) initiated session
  • using a client- (browser-) initiated session
  • using a client (browser)-initiated session

The session is initiated by the client, but I want to clarify that the "client" here is a browser.


3 Answers 3


I don't know if there's a formally correct answer, but strongly prefer the first option as it's the only one that isn't actively ugly.

So long as no-one is confused when you use client-initiated later, it does the job.

I'd probably prefer something like "using a client-initiated session (one started by the browser)" instead though.

  • I usually downvote answers that offer unsolicited workarounds, but this essentially corrects the question. Jan 23, 2018 at 14:17
  • Or a cliemt-initiated session in his browser.
    – Stu W
    Jul 23, 2018 at 3:06

This reference does not use hyphens and it appears to be quite understandable :

A more general problem is that the core Web (HTTP) protocol is client (browser) initiated.


  • I agree; the reference looks to be well written. I can't think of an example, but there is the possibility of confusion with X (Y) Z between 'a Z that is X, ie Y' where one would need two hyphens and 'a Z that is X (subclass Y). [I've left out adjustments for POS here, which would complicate further.] Jan 23, 2018 at 13:59
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth Yes, I think it is unnecessary (and possibly ambiguous) over-punctuation to use hyphens when the parenthesis acts as a hyphen.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 23, 2018 at 14:01
  • But as I say, this does not leave us with a way to differentiate. Sweet shop-girl and sweet-shop girl, using a single punctuation mark whose position is adjustable, show such disambiguation. Jan 23, 2018 at 14:15
  • @EdwinAshworth Ah, apologies. I misunderstood. My understanding of the particular term used in the question is that there would be no ambiguity.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 23, 2018 at 14:20
  • Yes, it works (subject to the clarity of the parenthetical itself) for the example given, but the title question probably needs a more general answer. Perhaps 'restructure'. Jan 23, 2018 at 15:01

Jonathan, strictly following the rule for compound adjectives, you would have to write "using a client-(browser)-initiated session". If I were writing the document, I would write "using a session initiated by a client browser". Lune

  • Hello, Lune. Please be aware that on ELU statements like 'following the rule ...' need to be accompanied by supporting evidence from a recognised authority. Here, that would need to include this particular case with the complication of the bracketed second pre-hyphen element. Jan 23, 2018 at 13:51
  • Edwin, The rule for hyphenating two or more words functioning together as an adjective is clear-cut and omnipresent in English grammar guides, but if I must give one, here's this: en.oxforddictionaries.com/punctuation/hyphen. I know of no exception to this rule to allow separate treatment of parenthetical structures, so by a strict application of the rule, the parenthetical structure in the sample would be hyphenated along with the other two words functioning together as an adjective modifying "session". As mentioned, I find this approach highly inelegant. Lune Jan 23, 2018 at 15:03
  • 'Many compound adjectives should be hyphenated.' is hardly a universal rule, and it is obvious that not even suspended hyphens are covered in this treatment. Very often, 'rules' in English conflict, and the greyest areas are rarely even considered in treatments below published papers. Here, there might be a mention in some style guide or other (though I suspect not), but that would be a recommendation. Jan 23, 2018 at 19:25
  • This is always a problem around here. It's about usage and usage is often about style, and style is set by whomever feels the urge. I find it to be a really stupid rule on issues like this. It always boils down to citing some style sheet from some publication.
    – Lambie
    Jun 22, 2018 at 21:49

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