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Please DO NOT answer this question if you use British English. You might help by answering the other question I posted just before this one.

I have found examples suggesting there is a fundamental difference in the way the Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries handle the punctuation of compound adjectives AFTER NOUNS.

I live in a small city in Indonesia and cannot go to a library to research this myself.

My understanding has always been that writers should always hyphenate (or not) compound adjectives after nouns in the same way as the expression is listed in their preferred dictionary.

That is not how CMOS does it with this example. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (the one CMOS uses) defines the adjectival form of 'middle-class' with a hyphen. Yet CMOS at 7.85 states this is correct:

the neighborhood is middle class

Can anyone describe a process to follow when writing in American English to determine whether a compound adjective after a noun needs to be hyphenated?

closed as off-topic by David, Nigel J, Scott, NVZ, jimm101 Jan 29 '18 at 19:25

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    The reason your bold didn’t work is that you indented the quote by four space characters—that is the markup for a block of computer code, in which HTML and markup characters like asterisks and underscores are not parsed as such, but instead written out as simple characters. I’ve fixed the quote to be an actual blockquote now, where markup works as usual. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 27 '18 at 10:06
  • "MY QUESTION IS: Do you do that too?" can make this a POB. – Kris Jan 27 '18 at 10:37
  • "middle class" in "the neighborhood is middle class" is not an adjective. "Up-to-date" is a different case. Its adjective form is always hyphenated. – Kris Jan 27 '18 at 10:43
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    @Kris. I agree the words "middle class" exist as both noun and adjectival phrases. It seems pretty obvious to me that for this use it is functioning to describe the neighborhood. – Ross Murray Jan 27 '18 at 10:58
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because, however interesting, it is not a question in the terms of SE EL & U but an attempt to elicit an on-line poll. – David Jan 27 '18 at 17:11
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I think I've found the reasons behind the apparent anomaly I detected.

  • In both BrE and AmE, compound adjectives are usually hyphenated before nouns but not after. There is one major difference for BrE. They also hyphenate after nouns when the compound includes a verb participle.
  • That leads to a difference in the way BrE and AmE dictionaries show compound adjectives.
  • AmE dictionaries show them with the hyphenated form. That alerts users hyphens are required before nouns; they assume users know that hyphens are dropped after nouns.
  • BrE dictionaries show them with the hyphenated form only if they are hyphenated after nouns (usually because they contain a verb participle); the dictionaries assume users will know the mere listing of a multi-word entry in the dictionary is enough to conclude it is a compound, so if it is an adjective it must then have hyphens inserted when before nouns.

I was unfortunate is coming across an example "out of left field" when I first noticed AmE and BrE dictionaries mean different things when they list compound adjectives with the hyphenated form.

I stumbled across the example "middle-class".

I will investigate this further, but I think the OED treats that as an anomaly - it is hyphenated after nouns despite not having a verb participle. My guess is they chose that to achieve consistency with "working-class". That seems plausible and there is no grammatical reason they should treat it that way.

Finally, I have a logical reason why AmE and BrE dictionaries should have a fundamental difference in the way they list compound adjectives. I'm surprised I had never heard this mentioned before. I've been very active for about two years in an online chat room for authors of fiction. We have "discussed" just about every other aspect of grammar and punctuation over that period - at great length.

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