Are hanging hyphens necessary?
A colleague consulted me about hanging hyphens (also called suspended or floating hyphens). For example:
short- and long-term plans
I don’t like hanging hyphens, so I would write ‘short and long-term plans’. I think omitting the hanging hyphen is cleaner, but since that is not a justification, I researched the topic.
The Australian Commonwealth Style manual says:
“Hanging” (or “floating”) hyphens are sometimes used to connect two words to a base word or number that they share:
pre- or post-1945
full- and part-time positions
While this form of hyphen can be useful in condensed prose, it is also potentially ambiguous. Fuller wording such as “full-time and part-time positions” would avoid this problem.’
On the other hand, The Chicago Manual of Style (16th edn) says:
‘When the second part of a hyphenated expression is omitted, the hyphen is retained, followed by a space.
Fifteen- and twenty-year mortgages…’
Having read both points of view, I would still rather omit the hanging hyphen. I cannot think of an example where omitting the hyphen would cause ambiguity.
What do you think?
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