Archivo | Hyphens with Phrases Containing Numbers RSS feed for this section

Hyphens with Phrases Containing Numbers

27 Nov

Hyphens with Phrases Containing Numbers

Hyphens with Phrases Containing Numbers

MAY 29, 2008
in FYI
From Edward Johnson’s The Handbook of Good English:
Phrases containing numbers follow a few special hyphenation conventions. For example, prefixes that would normally be solid with the word described are hyphenated with numbers, as inpre-1980the 8-fold way.
Exceptions from standard rules
Five hundred men modifies men with the adjective + noun compound five hundred, and normally such a compound would be hyphenated. But unless the number compound is complicated by another word or phrase, as in later examples, spelled-out numbers do not follow standard hyphenation rules when they modify a noun, no matter how many words it takes to spell them out: five hundred and thirty-six men.
Ten-dollar loss and two-hundred-million-dollar loss follow standard rules; the spelled-out numbers are like any other words used in compounds. When figures are used, one often sees a hyphen where there is no justification for it: $10-loss. This is as incorrect as ten-dollar-loss. But there is one exception to the standard rules. When a large round sum of money preceded by the dollar sign (or a pound sign or a euro sign, etc.) is partly in figures and partly spelled out, as in $200 million, it conventionally does not get a hyphen as an adjective:$200 million loss. One does see the hyphen occasionally, and though it can’t be called wrong, since it is there if the number is entirely spelled out, it is troublesome; perhaps the eye is somehow aware that there are invisible hyphens with the adjectival elements represented by $200 and wants all the hyphens in the compound to be invisible. Hyphens are used, and required by the eye, if such a compound is combined with another word or phrase that needs hyphenation: $200-million-plus loss$200-million-per-quarter loss.
Similarly, adjectival compounds of figures + percent are conventionally not hyphenated unless they are part of larger compounds: 23 percent increase23-percent-a-year increase. This holds even when there is no invisible hyphen in the figure and my speculation about the consistency-loving eye breaks down, as in 10 percent increase.
Other adjectival compounds of figures and a word should follow the standard rules for hyphenation: 30-minute wait16-inch gun125-acre farm, and so on.
Spelled-out fractions
Fractions should always be hyphenated when they are adjectives or adverbs, as in They got a one-third share and The money is three-quarters gone. Opinions differ on whether they should be hyphenated when they are nouns, as in They got one-third of the money. By standard rules of hyphenation, there is no reason to hyphenate them; they are merely noun compounds formed of adjective + noun. However, the hyphen is “heard”–we do not pronounce the elements of such compounds as distinct words but slur them together–and omission of the hyphen could conceivably mislead: I used to save all my change in a bucket, but I’ve spent three quarters of it. I prefer to hyphenate fractions routinely. One can think of the hyphen as representing the division bar in a fraction in figures.
The horse rounded the track five and three-quarters times. Adjectival compounds of a whole number and a fraction are not hyphenated throughout unless they are complicated by another word, as in The horse fell at the one-and-one-quarter-mile mark.

  fuente :