3 Cases of Superfluous Hyphenation
The oft-misunderstood hyphen is often left out of a phrase because of confusion about (or ignorance of) its purpose; occasionally, perplexity about the hyphen’s function is the cause of extraneous use, as shown in the examples below.
1. The mother-of-two said she had never seen anything like it before.
The simple descriptive phrase that provides more detail about the person requires no hyphenation: “The mother of two said she had never seen anything like it before.” Specifically, mother is hyphenated in a phrase only in rare instances of noun phrases such as mother-in-law and mother-of-pearl.
2. The rail authority originally planned to build from Burbank-to-Los Angeles before connecting the Central Valley to San Francisco.
Phrases describing starting points and destinations are not generally hyphenated: “The rail authority originally planned to build from Burbank to Los Angeles before connecting the Central Valley to San Francisco.” (An exception is when the phrase is a phrasal adjective modifying a noun: “The rail authority originally planned a Burbank–to–Los Angeles line before connecting the Central Valley to San Francisco”; here, en dashes are used instead of hyphens because at least one of the terms in the range consists of more than one word.)
3. Tasting menus range from $215 for five-courses and $255 for seven-courses at lunch to $325 for nine-courses at dinner.
Phrases in which a number serves as an adjective modifying a noun are not hyphenated: Tasting menus range from $215 for five courses and $255 for seven courses at lunch to $325 for nine courses at dinner. (Again, hyphens are appropriate in phrasal adjectives; here, an adjective and a noun combine to hyphenate a noun: “Tasting menus range from $215 for a five-course lunch and $255 for a seven-course lunch to $325 for a nine-course dinner.”)
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