I need to write the following sentence in a description of a book's binding:

"Printer's wrappers, housed in a cloth-backed and cloth-edged card slipcase."

This seems clunky to me, and I would rather write "cloth-backed and -edged card slipcase." Is the hyphen necessary before "edged?" I know that in the opposite situation (in which the second component is shared between two compound words) one can simply list the first components and follow each with a hyphen. An example I saw in another question was "ground- and sea-based forces." Can the same concept be applied to this situation? Thank you!

  • Since it's OK to say it aloud that way (i.e., "...housed in a cloth backed and edged car slipcase..."), a common convention, we can definitely write it. How we'd write it is how you showed (i.e., "...housed in a cloth-backed and -edged card slipcase."). Since I don't know what you mean by "card" in that sentence, I don't know if it's a coordinate or non-coordinate adjective or if it's part of a compound noun with "slipcase" or what, so I can't speak to whether you've shown it appropriately, thus leaving it as shown since it's not actually to do with your question. May 7 at 20:01

According to this reference (Govinfo) it is not possible to do that for first elements; it is standard practice for the second element, however.

6.23. Where two or more hyphenated compounds have a common basic element but this element is omitted in all but the last term, the hy phens are retained.
♦ 2- to 3- and 4- to 5-ton trucks
♦ 2- by 4-inch boards, but boards 2 to 6 inches wide 8-, 10-, and 16-foot boards 6.4-, 3.1-, and 2-percent pay raises
♦ moss- and ivy-covered walls, not moss and ivy-covered walls long- and short-term money rates, not long and short-term money rates
but twofold or threefold, not two or threefold
♦ goat, sheep, and calf skins, not goat, sheep, and calfskins
♦ intrastate and intracity, not intra-state and -city
♦ American owned and managed companies preoperative and postoperative examination

(Wikipedia) The following possibilities is all that Wikipedia has to offer; there is no mention of any other term than the head.

Using a group of compound nouns containing the same "head"

Special rules apply when multiple compound nouns with the same "head" are used together, often with a conjunction (and with hyphens and commas if they are needed).
♦ The third- and fourth-grade teachers met with the parents.
♦ Both full- and part-time employees will get raises this year.
♦ We don't see many 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children around here.

  • That's a government style guide, not a grammar book. Also, it doesn't address the question at hand. 6.23 is just one of numerous conventions in the government's style guide, conventions that neither include nor preclude what the asker is asking, 6.23 merely touching on the government's accepted convention when the last element in a compound that is carried forward in a list, not the first element. May 7 at 19:50
  • @BenjaminHarman Does "cloth-backed and -edged card slipcase" seem to be a likely construction to you? It seems to me it isn't used at all. Would government directives go against basic grammatical principles? I doubt that very much, they are probably, to the contrary, in harmony with them.
    – LPH
    May 7 at 20:00
  • Yes, it does. Not specifically those words because they themselves are unique, but conceptually, yes, it does. It'd be no different than someone saying "gravel-road and -driveway maintenance" or "kitchen-floor and -cabinet installation." May 7 at 20:05
  • @BenjaminHarman I wouldn't mind having the reassurance of some grammatical reference. I'll see what further research might yield.
    – LPH
    May 7 at 20:07
  • Just remember that writing only exists as a method for conveying speech, so writing always reflects speech, meaning anything that can be said can be written. Since people commonly carry a modifier forward through a list (e.g., the red hat, scarf, and gloves), including doing so in situations where the adjective is a noun adjunct, like "garage" is in "garage door," and since the such is hyphenated when used jointly as a modifier (e.g., garage-door repair), people therefore say things like "garage-door and -window repair," so if not written as such, how then would it be written? May 7 at 20:16

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