5 Cases of Unnecessary Hyphenation
In each of the following sentences, one or more hyphens are extraneous. A discussion and revision follows each example.
1. Data is accurate and often delivered in real-time.
“Real time” is a compound noun, and such nouns are almost invariably open or closed; hyphenated exceptions such as mind-set are rare. If a compound noun does not appear in the dictionary in closed form (or hyphenated), treat it as an open compound: “Data is accurate and often delivered in real time.” (However, do hyphenate such a compound that functions as a phrasal adjective before a noun, as in “This tool provides valuable real-time insight into the process.” Exceptions include standing open compound nouns that are listed in the dictionary, such as “income tax”: “This rule does not apply to income tax returns.”)
2. As companies become increasingly information-driven, information technology plays a pivotal role in this transformation.
When a phrasal adjective follows the noun it modifies, do not hyphenate it: “As companies become increasingly information driven, information technology plays a pivotal role in this transformation.” (However, as alluded to in the previous discussion, hyphenate a phrasal adjective when it precedes a noun, as in “information-driven companies.”)
3. Companies need to get up-to-speed quickly on their regulatory requirements.
The words in “up to speed” do not collectively modify anything, so hyphens are not required: “Companies need to get up to speed quickly on their regulatory requirements.”
4. Protocols with minimal-to-no tolerance for mistakes should clearly articulate what constitutes a mistake, and how to avoid making it.
This sentence includes an unnecessarily hyphenated phrase that is incorrect for the same reason that the one in the previous example is. However, because a noun follows the phrase “minimal to no,” the phrase may be misidentified as a phrasal adjective. But minimal and no are distinct adjectives that do not combine with to to create a single modifier: “Protocols with minimal to no tolerance for mistakes should clearly articulate what constitutes a mistake, and how to avoid making it.”
5. Many residents were stunned by the apparently racially-inspired crime.
Adverbial phrases in which the adverb ends in -ly, not to be confused with phrasal adjectives, are not hyphenated: “Many residents were stunned by the apparently racially inspired crime.”
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