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I have following sentence on a product packaging as a tagline.

Easy to use kitchen tools to simplify your workload.

I've asked a few native speakers and they said, that "Easy to use" would be a compound adjective and therefore require hyphens.

In this sentence, is it a must to add hyphens?

Sorry if anything is wrong, not a native speaker here.

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    If you want it to be a compound adjective then it should be hyphenated, otherwise it's simply a syntactic construction with "easy" as head and "to use" as its complement.
    – BillJ
    Mar 15 at 13:24
  • Which is more correct? Thing about this is a tagline which goes as a representation of a product.
    – Pedro
    Mar 15 at 13:32
  • This is the main reason I wrote this. I am unsure about the hyphens in this exact case. The explanations in the somewhat similar answers are far beyond my understanding :/
    – Pedro
    Mar 15 at 15:06
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    Does this answer your question? "easy to use" versus "easy-to-use" Used before the noun, the string is usually hyphenated, but this is governed largely by Gricean requirements for clarity and ease of reading rather than strict laws of morphology say. Though Gricean maxims are usually held to be binding. Mar 15 at 15:49
  • Are you dong advertising copy? Then, yes, as an adjective, hyphenate it.
    – Lambie
    Mar 15 at 16:14

2 Answers 2

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There are few "musts" in language. There are in fact no grammar police who will incarcerate you for mistakes. Instead, ask yourself what are the consequences? The worst consequence of poor choices is often that your meaning is not understood. Even if the reader is confused for only moments and then figures it out, you don't want to put obstacles in the way of your communication. Other consequences might include bad grades from a teacher who has certain expectations about usage, or scorn in certain social contexts.

I'm a big fan of hyphens in compound modifiers. But I don't think even I can claim that every single compound must always have them. I'm a fan of them because omitting them often creates confusion, but this phrase runs little danger of that. The compound starts the sentence, and we have no reason to interpret "to use" as an independent verb.

If, on the other hand, we had:

Betty Crocker's collection of cake mixes makes easy baking recipes

... and if the intent was "makes easy-baking recipes," that is "makes recipes that are easy to bake," there's a danger that instead I'll come across "makes easy" and parse it as its own phrase, and "baking" as a verb, and interpret the sentence as "makes the act of baking recipes easy."

So in the short, easy clause you present, I wouldn't say that hyphenation is a "must," though they would not be unwelcome. It might depend especially on the context: if this is a tagline for a company ("KitchenAid. Easy to use kitchen tools to simplify your workload."), then I might even eschew the hyphens for design purposes, if they looked clunky in the ad.

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  • Thank you very much for the answer. I thought of placing these on the product packaging and the business card. So the consequences might be it would be viewed as not professional if the grammar is wrong. I think I'll better be adding them then.
    – Pedro
    Mar 15 at 16:36
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It is better to use hyphens.

We usually use hyphens to show that it works as one adjective.

'easy to use' with hyphens ➜ easy-to-use tools (Here easy-to-use is an adjective.)

'easy to use' without hyphens ➜ 'The tools are easy to use.' (Here 'easy' is an adjective.)

[ seven-year-old boy, three-day holiday, two-hour journey, five-page document etc. ]

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  • Thank you very much for your answer.
    – Pedro
    Mar 15 at 16:36
  • You're very welcome. Mar 15 at 16:48
  • It's better not to answer duplicates. Mar 15 at 17:45

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