Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of three-word phrases unnecessarily hyphenated. Here’s an example:
Once it’s all said and done, you’ll have peace-of-mind knowing the contents on your computer are protected.
Sorry, but those hyphens aren’t necessary. Here are a few more: inch-by-inch, time-of-day, up-to-date, over-and-over. These would all make fine compound adjectives, but don’t hyphenate them unless they are adjectives! For those hyphens to be correct, the writer of that sentence would need something like:
Once it’s all said and done, you’ll have a peace-of-mind situation knowing the contents on your computer are protected.
Those other examples might be inch-by-inch examination, time-of-day readout, up-to-date message, over-and-over excuses. An exercise: when you see one of these, supply your own noun the adjective phrase to modify. But when they’re by themselves, don’t hyphenate them.
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English is a relatively uninflected language, so word order is important. In declarative sentences, for example, we put the subject first most of the time, and the verb after it. It can get tricky when we insert modifiers. The rule is to put modifiers as close to what they modify as possible. Here’s an example […]
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The rule is that when you compare two things, you use the comparative form (see the Andertoons comic below), and when you select from three or more, it’s called the superlative form. The kid in the comic has a point. When the word you want has three or more syllables, use more and most with […]