The UK Teachers' Standards ask teachers to 'take responsibility for promoting... the correct use of standard English', and six lines later we find the heading, 'Plan and teach well structured lessons' [sic].

Does anyone else think 'well-structured' should be hyphenated?

See Page 11 of https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/665520/Teachers__Standards.pdf

Thank you

  • Mu impression is that Americans are more fussy about this kind of thing - as can be confirmed by toggling between US/UK corpuses in this NGram for a well-designed building with or without the hyphen. But it's basically a stylistic choice (yours as the writer, or that of your chosen style guide). Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 17:54
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    Does this answer your question? "You should be well-organised" or "You should be well organised"? If I hadn't found that I'd have closevoted for being a peeve anyway. Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 17:57
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    I agree that it is better hyphenated. On my screen there is a line break after well which led me to read it as Plan and teach well. This created a slight hiatus when I came to structured. It's generally a good idea to anticipate and avoid even momentary misreadings such as this.
    – Shoe
    Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 18:23
  • Lexico includes well-structured as a compound lexeme: it gives only the hyphenated form. Other 'authorities' disagree. But authorities generally agree that hyphenation-for-clarity where needed trumps all ... and here, 'Plan and teach well structured ...' is garden-pathy though hardly undisambiguable. Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 19:42

3 Answers 3


The UK Government style guide says

Do not use a hyphen unless it’s confusing without it, for example, a little used-car is different from a little-used car.

It is obvious what is meant by "Plan and teach well structured lessons", so it is difficult to say it is wrong, though personally I might prefer an hyphen, as does York St John University. I do not think the difference matters.

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    'Plan, and teach well, structured lessons.' The default reading is, I agree, far more likely, but even a whiff of garden-pathiness is usually better avoided. Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 19:33
  • It is not "obvious" at all that the lessons are to be well-structured. There is a good chance that structured lessons are to be planned and taught well.
    – Anton
    Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 20:26

Fowlers says very much the same thing; there is no definitive rule and the hyphen is used for clarity and to help the reader. It's personal. I would use a hyphen in the example you have given because, when you scan the sentence, it reduces the confusion of 'well' being a word in its own right. Book editors tend to advise minimum use of the hyphen in order to reduce the print load.


Many U.S. publishing houses follow the Chicago Manual of Style's guideline on when to hyphenate compound modifiers. here is the recommendation in the sixteenth edition of this style guide:

7.81 Compound modifiers before or after a noun. When compound modifiers (also called phrasal adjectives) such as open-mouthed or full-length precede a noun, hyphenation usually lends clarity. With the exception of proper nouns (such as United States) and compounds formed by an adverb ending in -ly plus an adjective (see 7.82), it is never incorrect to hyphenate adjectival compounds before a noun. When such compounds follow the noun they modify, hyphenation is usually unnecessary, even for adjectival compounds that are hyphenated in Webster's (such as well-read or ill-humored).

In short, Chicago considers

Plan and teach well-structured lessons

to be clearer on first reading than

Plan and teach well structured lessons

(since readers might entertain the possibility that "well" attaches to "plan and teach" rather than to "structured"). On the other hand, no such shadow of ambiguity attaches to

Plan and teach lessons that are well structured

so no hyphen would be necessary (or, arguably, appropriate) in that case.

As others have noted in comments and answers, British style on hyphenation is less aggressively pro-hyphen than U.S. style, but I don't think that anyone could reasonably argue that including the hyphen in the particular case that the OP asks about is utterly superfluous or simply wrong.

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