Alternatives to Hyphens in Compound Adjectives
The Quick AnswerA single adjective made up of more than one word is called a compound adjective.
The parts of a compound adjective are often joined together with hyphen(s) to show it is just one adjective (e.g., a four-seater aircraft, a double-glazing salesman).
However, it is possible to group the words in a compound adjective using title case if it's a title (e.g., Billy Elliot tickets), italics (especially if it's a foreign term) (e.g., ab initio course), and quotation marks (e.g., a "get out now" look).
Alternatives to Hyphens in Compound AdjectivesAlthough hyphens are most commonly used to link the parts of a compound adjective together, this linking can also be done with title case (i.e., the use of capital letters), italics, quotation marks, or a combination of these.
Here are some examples:
- Anna gave George her "don't you dare" look. (The compound adjective could have been written as don't-you-dare. However, for style purposes, the writer chose to group the elements of the adjective using quotation marks.)
- The actions align with Dayton Peace Accord regulations. (When titles are used as adjectives, it is more appropriate to use title case to group the adjective together. In this example, the compound adjective is Dayton Peace Accord.)
- It is an exclusive restaurant with an à la carte menu. (When foreign terms are used as an adjective, they are often grouped using italics.)
- Darren ordered a pair of Phantom of the Opera tickets. (This is a combination of italics and title case to group the compound adjective.)
- Adam will be carrying a "United Colors of Benetton" bag. (This is a combination of quotation marks and title case.)
Just Link the Parts of the AdjectiveIt is a mistake to join the adjective and whatever is being described with a hyphen.
should be "30-year sentence"
In the same way, it is a mistake to include the thing being described within the quotation marks, the italics, or the title. For example:
- The United Arab Emirates Spokesman stood up and left. (There should be a small s on Spokesman.)
- It is the only bona fide cure on the market. (The word "cure" should not be in italics.)
- As far as I am concerned, you can tell the House of Lords representative whatever you like.
- You should visit the Médecins Sans Frontières offices in Paris and pick up an application form.