By Judy Vorfeld
Welcome to the world of suspended hyphens. When one or more hyphenated adjectives** has a common basic element and this element is shown only with the last term, insert a suspending hyphen after each of the incomplete adjectives to indicate a relationship with the last term.
What does a suspended hyphen look like? Have you ever seen a word in a group followed by a hyphen and a space that looks strange? Like this:
ABC Mortgage Company offers special rates and handling of fifteen– and thirty-year mortgages.
Studies have determined the distinctions between right– or left-brain functions.
Here are more examples (NOTE: someone with an eagle eye noticed that there was an en dash after some words rather than a hyphen however they don’t appear as en dashes in the HTML or Visual version of WordPress, so I am stumped):
- A three– or four-color glossy cover
- Two– and four-wheel drive
- Pre– and post-war
- First-, second-, and third-graders
- 25-, 35-, 45-, and 55-year-olds
If you don’t like using suspended hyphens, why not re-cast their sentences to avoid them? Example: using the heading of this article, you could recast to say, “There will be a delay of between two and six days.”
** Adjectives: Word that describes what kind, how many, or which one. Adjectives can be single words or a group of words. They modify the meanings of nouns and pronouns.