Hyphenating More + Adjective
A reader questions the standard advice that the adverb more should not be linked to an adjective by a hyphen:
I find that most style guides do not favor hyphenating phrases starting with “more” (e.g., more honest). I find the following phrase in the manuscript that I am currently editing: “more explicit predictions.” This could mean predictions that are more explicit or more predictions that are explicit. From the context, I believe the author means the former. For clarity, shouldn’t this be hyphenated as “more-explicit predictions”?
Most style guides do advise against linking more to an adjective with a hyphen, but most also recognize that sometimes a hyphen may be necessary for clarity.
For example, The Chicago Manual of Style prefers “a spare hyphenation style.” The guide provides numerous examples, but recognizes that writers will encounter punctuation puzzles for which they can find no examples or analogies. In that case, CMOS gives this common sense advice:
if no suitable example or analogy can be found either in this section [7.85] or in the dictionary, hyphenate only if doing so will aid readability.
Adding a hyphen is a quick solution, but not the only one. Another option is to rewrite the sentence with a qualifying clause:
There is a need for predictions that are more explicit.
The reader who posed the question rejects the clause solution as “rather stilted.” It does require more words, but calling it stilted is a matter of opinion. I see it as a practical solution.
Another way to avoid ambiguity with more is to use a different word. Here are some synonyms for more:
These words may or may not be appropriate substitutes for more in a specific context. Sometimes the only way to avoid ambiguity is to take the time to rethink the sentence.
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