I had a debate at work, over which thing would be considered the most correct way of writing the following (English):

"The company offers engineering, retail and architectural services"


"The company offers engineering-, retail- and architectural services"

I am from Denmark, and in Danish we use the second approach which connects

  • 2
    The suspended hyphens would only make sense if you used architectural-services. But you didn't. You can't suspend the use of a hyphen and then never follow through with its use in the final phrase. Feb 24, 2019 at 7:48
  • The second approach is wrong. Normal adjectives do not require hyphenation.
    – Lambie
    Mar 26, 2019 at 22:34

2 Answers 2


You can preposition almost any reasonable number of adjectives that are just regular adjectives. There is no need for hyphens:

"The company offers engineering, retail and architectural services"

However, hyphenation happens like this:

Some trees bear fruit and others bear nuts.

Becomes: fruit- and nut-bearing trees.

Very often, there are two or three nouns connected to the same verb. This calls for hyphenation in the adjectival form to avoid repetition.

It is understood that what follows the first hyphen is implied. It is the same as the gerund in the second, but it is left out. When spoken (as in when someone reads a text, their intonation will carry this meaning.)

An example with three hyphens:

Ideas based on tradition, culture and history

tradition-, culture- and history-based ideas.

Or a more technical example:

a generator can be powered by wind, electricity or water

wind-, electricity and water-powered generators

To be noted: how it is the verb that structures the hyphenation.


In English, it is definitely the former (the version without the hyphens) that is correct; the latter is not. Engineering and retail are here complete, stand-alone words; the use of hyphens would wrongly imply that they are prefixes in some compounds that are either hyphenated or spelled closed.

It would be correct to use hyphens in, for example, 'The vegetables should be neither under- nor overcooked' or 'Both pre- and post-production took a long time'; this is because in the first example under- stands for undercooked, and in the second pre- stands for pre-production.

  • My only issue here is that overcook and undercook are words in their own right. That's a special case,I'd say.
    – Lambie
    Mar 26, 2019 at 22:32

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