Consider these hyphenated phrases:

  1. "State-of-the-art design"
  2. "family-owned cafe"

Are the following modified phrases punctuated correctly ? Are they idiomatic in speech and writing ?

  1. "sub-state-of-the-art design"
  2. "non-family-owned cafe"
  • 1
    Hyphenation has nothing to do with grammar or idiom. Complex hyphenated phrases are the subject of many questions on this list and there is generally no perfect way of removing the ugliness and lack of clarity from such things. My solution is just DON'T. If you know what "sub-state-of-the-art design" is supposed to mean, translate it into English. If you need to say that a cafe is not owned by a family, try a relative pronoun. Unless this is a quiz question nobody is compelling you to abuse the English language, and if it is a quiz question it is no concern of this list.
    – David
    Sep 14, 2022 at 21:17
  • @David If hyphenation has nothing to do with grammar or idiom, how is it that there are simple rules for using single hyphens like 'family-owned', even if those start to fail with complexities like 'state-of-the-art', and that with or without 'official' rules, large numbers of people follow the same patterns speech? Sep 18, 2022 at 15:34
  • 1
    I’m voting to close this question because it is based on the misunderstanding that punctuation is part of either grammar or idiom. The question could be rescued by asking if the hyphenation followed convention, but then it would be a duplicate.
    – David
    Sep 18, 2022 at 16:38
  • 1
    @jimm101 — There is no such thing as "correct" hyphenation. There is the style of hyphenation I would use, the style of hyphenation you would use, the style used by some book out of Chicago that I never read when I lived there, the style Gower recommended to British civil servants after the war and the style Dickens used.
    – David
    Sep 19, 2022 at 20:11
  • 1
    @Prem I'm not sure that hyphens are important in speech at all :-)
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 26 at 15:56


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