Suspensive Hyphenation Exercise (47)

Each of the following sentences demonstrates incorrect style for suspensive hyphenation; revise the style of the number as necessary.

Answers and Explanations

When the last word in each of two or more hyphenated phrasal adjectives is the same, all instances of that word but the last may be omitted when the word can be clearly understood to apply to all the phrasal adjectives, but retain the hyphen after the words preceding the elision, followed by a letter space. (For example, "The left- and right-hand turns have different street names.")

1.
Original: For an eighteen or nineteen-year-old, it can just seem like old guys blowing hot air.
Correct : For an eighteen- or nineteen-year-old, it can just seem like old guys blowing hot air.

Eighteen, a truncated form of eighteen-year-old, requires a suspensive hyphen.

2.
Original: Cinder cones are formed by short eruptions of pea-to-walnut-sized lava rocks injected with gas and air.
Correct : Cinder cones are formed by short eruptions of pea- to walnut-sized lava rocks injected with gas and air.

The full form of the construction is "pea-sized to walnut-sized lava rocks," so pea, though sized is correctly omitted, should not be hyphenated to to, and to should not be hyphenated to walnut.

3.
Original: The medication alleviates flu or cold-related symptoms.
Correct : The medication alleviates flu- or cold-related symptoms.

The medication alleviates flu-related symptoms, not flu, so flu needs a suspensive hyphen.

4.
Original: The best-seller follows the action and comedy-packed story of a fairy turned human boy.
Correct : The best-seller follows the action- and comedy-packed story of a fairy turned human boy.

The story is packed with action and packed with comedy, so action requires a suspensive hyphen.

5.
Original: Here’s what you need to pack up for a three or four day holiday weekend.
Correct : Here’s what you need to pack up for a three- or four-day holiday weekend.

The reference is to a holiday weekend lasting three or four days, so three and four require hyphens connecting them, respectively, to an implied and an actual instance of day.

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