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I am editing a bio for a non-writer who has written: "I am a child and adult psychologist..."

This is awkward... it sounds like he's a child. How do I remedy this?

Is it something like: "I am a child- and adult psychologist?

Not sure what's correct here. Help, please. :)

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  • 2
    It's their term. You probly want to use it. Why not capitalize it? That stitches it together and makes it unambiguous, as it's obviously meant to be. Plus it make them Capitalized. Mar 11, 2023 at 20:27
  • 5
    Only "I am a child and an adult psychologist" says I am six. Mar 12, 2023 at 1:19
  • 2
    I am an Adult-Child psychologist.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 12, 2023 at 14:19
  • 15
    I am a psychologist for children and adults.
    – Lambie
    Mar 12, 2023 at 17:40
  • 2
    My absolute favorite punctuation rule. Rule 5. Never hesitate to add a hyphen if it solves a possible problem. grammarbook.com/punctuation/hyphens.asp
    – Phil Sweet
    Mar 13, 2023 at 14:50

10 Answers 10

32

The best way to do it, I think, would be to forgo the hyphens completely and go with:

I am a psychologist who works with children and adults.

Anything else is awkward, ambiguous, or both.

If it's necessary to emphasize that this individual works with children and adults (i.e., this isn't just introductory information), you could add in a 'both':

I am a psychologist who works with both children and adults.

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  • 30
    "I'm a tiresome pedant and I'm wondering which two children you're referring to?" 🤪 Mar 12, 2023 at 8:28
  • 5
    @LamarLatrell :) I guess 'I work both with children and adults' would be better' for you tiresome pedants. Mar 12, 2023 at 13:45
  • 5
    Why is "both" needed at all? Your first version seems unambiguous to me. Mar 13, 2023 at 3:57
15

Another easy solution:

I am a pediatric and adult psychologist.

Since "pediatric" is an adjective, this eliminates the ambiguity.

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  • 6
    Agreed, but it is likely that OP's client wants to use common or easier terms, which often is the preferred way of writing or speaking when it is about marketing.
    – JoHKa
    Mar 11, 2023 at 22:46
  • 3
    "Child psychologist" is much more common than "pediatric." Mar 12, 2023 at 16:17
  • 1
    Very astute johann_ka, he definitely wants to keep it (almost aggressively) plain-spoken.
    – Wed
    Mar 12, 2023 at 19:26
  • 3
    Calling yourself a pediatric might not be advisable with todays levels of stupid. Ok, the article is 23 years old, but education hasen't become better. Mar 13, 2023 at 7:38
10

Is it something like: "I am a child- and adult psychologist?

To use that format you would have to be consistent: "I am a child- and adult-psychologist."


Note I have just found this previous question which covers the subject of hyphens in lists.

Burchfield's 1998 edition of Fowler's Modern English Usage says under hyphen, listing its uses:

6 To represent a common second element in all but the last word of a list, e.g. two-, three-, or four-fold.

This usage is perfectly acceptable; and in some cases it's really essential as Edwin Ashworth has commented:

We really have to prepare the ground- and sea-based forces.

How to use hyphens appropriately when listing multiple hyphenated terms?

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  • You may want to be consistent, but adding the second hyphen isn't that. This is a suspended hyphen, and you don't want one after adult. A clearer example would be micro- and macroeconomics where there isn't even a place for the second hyphen.
    – Phil Sweet
    Mar 13, 2023 at 14:59
  • Use one hyphen: child and adult -psychologist. Then take it out because child, and adult, may be applied as adjectives. Mar 13, 2023 at 15:22
  • Have you an authority licensing adding say two hyphens in such a list where there are originally zero rather than one? "I am a child psychologist." / "I am an adult psychologist." / → "I am a child- and adult-psychologist." (There are doubtless better examples.) Apr 19, 2023 at 18:33
4

You could write this as,

I am a child-and-adult psychologist.

This is less of a crash blossom, since it can never be misread as saying “I am a child and ....” But this isn’t all that common. You might prefer:

I practice child and adult psychology.

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  • To me that first one, apart from being unconventional and therefore open to misinterpretation, has a really weird meaning. It sounds as though the psychologist is both an adult and a child. I suppose these days with people self-identifying differently at different times that is possible but it is not what is meant. Mar 13, 2023 at 23:17
  • @chasly-supportsMonica I personaly thought it was clear (like “salt-and-pepper hair,” “cookies-and-creme shake,” “suit-and-tie dress code”) but apparently not.
    – Davislor
    Mar 13, 2023 at 23:35
  • I prefer the second as clear, natural and preserving the original intent as much as possible. I tend to agree with comments about the first - it sounds like it might be some separate niche brand of psychology I've not heard of before; something to do with helping children who relate poorly to adults, or vice versa.
    – Blackhawk
    Mar 14, 2023 at 2:56
  • 1
    Great answer. most editors in English would just change it to the first one, which is a common pattern
    – Fattie
    Mar 14, 2023 at 11:21
4

Based on usage, hyphenation doesn't seem necessary. According to Google, "a child and adult psychologist" seems to be the most idiomatic expression referring to a psychologist specializing in both "child psychology" and "adult psychology".

Your own suggestion and other suggestions in previous answers are simply not as idiomatic among psychologists.

It sounds "awkward" to you (because "it sounds like he's a child") because you're not familiar with the terms "child/adult psychology" and "child/adult psychologist".

Grammatically, these are not compound nouns but composite nominals, so the component parts (e.g., child and adult) can enter into relations of coordination.

4

It's not awkward or ambiguous. If the writer was a child who was also an adult psychologist, not that that is a plausible situation in the first place, then they would write:

I am a child and an adult psychologist.

In general a conjunction of two nouns with articles retains both articles. Since it only has one article, "a child and adult psychologist" is not a conjunction of two (countable) nouns and must be a single noun phrase, as intended.

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  • More needless confusion. Mar 13, 2023 at 15:21
  • This. The ambiguity in the grammar is resolved by pragmatics; if the speaker wanted to express "(I am a child) and (I am an adult psychologist)", then they'd have to choose a different phrasing to not only resolve the ambiguity, but furthermore emphasize the intended meaning.
    – askyle
    Mar 14, 2023 at 13:55
2

It's no more confusing than saying "I am an adult psychologist" which could mean you are an adult and a psychologist or a psychologist who treats adults.

"Child and Adult Psychologist" also has 178k hits on Google that seems to have a similar usage. If it is commonly used like this in the industry, then I don't think it needs changing. Especially as you would have to change any other instances of "adult psychologist" to "adult-psychologist", which seems strange to me.

I think it would only cause confusion if the author was actually a child who is an adult psychologist, but then you probably wouldn't word it like this, anyway.

As for ways to get around this minor ambiguity, many other users have already given sufficient examples.

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0

Why not switch them around?

"I am an adult and child psychologist"

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    This has the same issue: is the person a psychologist for adults?
    – wizzwizz4
    Mar 12, 2023 at 20:45
0

"I am a child and adult psychologist," without a comma after child, seems quite clear, reasonable and welcoming, to me.

Regardless, if you need to take the guy for a child, whether the comma, to over-load other bits and ways of English, then you need to see him, right away. Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar.

0

I am both a child and adult psychologist. …Unless, of course, the child graduated college early and is now a psychologist.

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  • I'm not sure that adding 'both' clarifies anything here. Apr 19, 2023 at 17:25

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