Should the phrase time consuming hyphenated or not?

In the context I'm using it in, the hyphen seems right.

"Painting the walls with chalkboard paint and providing chalk allows customers to make their mark without creating a time-consuming mess."

  • Consulting dictionaries such as ODO and Merriam Webster include the hyphenation. I'd advise you to do the same. – aesking Jul 3 '18 at 20:26
  • But then I wouldn't have the joy of consuming-your time. Many Thanks – Incrementalist Jul 3 '18 at 20:30
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    Sorry, when I said "I'd advise you to do the same" I meant, I'd advise you to include the hyphenation also; not consult ODO and MW as a retort for lack of research. Also it wouldn't be "consuming-your time" this is unhyphenated: "consuming-your" is not a compound lexis. – aesking Jul 3 '18 at 20:48
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    no worries. It was very helpful. I thought it might just be a matter of style. – Incrementalist Jul 3 '18 at 20:55
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    Just did the same thing for good-looking. – Incrementalist Jul 3 '18 at 20:55

When used as an adjective, the hyphen is appropriate according to dictionaries including ODO and Merriam Webster. So your example would be the correct usage.

However, there are a few cases where the hyphen may not be appropriate. The phrase "time-consuming" is made up of a noun ("time") and adjective ("consuming"). The Chicago Manual of Style says that these types of compounds are usually hyphenated when they appear before a noun, but not when they come after the noun. For example:

  • This is a very time-consuming task.
  • This task is very time consuming.

In addition to this, when time consuming is not being used as a compound adjective it should not be hyphenated, for example:

  • She spent a long time consuming the meal.

Time-consuming is appropriate because you're using it as an adjective, which is probably what aesking's dictionaries are referring to.

Now, if you used it as a verb, like "Humans merely time consume when they are watching TV," then yeah. That would be more elegant than "consume time" now that I think of it...

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    Not my down-vote, but it might have been a reaction to your verb example. Stack Exchange answers are supposed to try to be objectively 'correct': supported by logical argument, references to authority, etc. To me, the example offered for the verb (1) doesn't sound idiomatic, and (2) looks better if hyphenated. As you haven't offered any objective analysis (Ngram, dictionary, grammar site, links to established usage, etc), anyone who doesn't agree with you might simply think you're wrong. – Lawrence Jul 5 '18 at 0:41

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