Suspended Compound (Grammar)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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In English grammar, a suspended compound is a set of compound nouns or compound adjectives in which an element common to all members is not repeated. Also called suspensive hyphenation.

A hyphen and a space follow the first element of a suspended compound. (A hyphen with a space after it is called a hanging hyphen.)

Examples and Observations

  • "The festival starts with a parade, followed by the crowning of 'Little Miss Catfish,' who is chosen by drawing a name from among the five- and six-year-old catfish princesses." (Bob Rashid, Gone Fishing. University of Wisconsin Press, 1999)
  • The difference between the pre- and post-test scores is the so-called learning gain.
  • More injuries are caused by falls from a three- or four-foot height than by falls from tall extension ladders.
  • More than half of three- and four-year-old children in the U.S. attend preschool.
  • Several arguments support the idea that there is a fundamental difference between short- and long-term memory.
  • At the Paperback Exchange, books of all kinds can be exchanged for first- and second-hand books in English.
  • Cyrus McCormick, the head of International Harvester, typified nineteenth- and twentieth-century industrialists' understanding of manliness.​

Stylistic Advice: Suspended Compounds

"Do not use suspended compound adjectives unless space is limited. In a suspended compound adjective, part of the adjective is separated from the rest of the adjective, such as 'first-' in 'first- and second-generation computers.' If you must use suspended compound adjectives, include a hyphen with both adjectives. Avoid forming suspended compound adjectives from one-word adjectives." (Microsoft Manual of Style, 4th ed. Microsoft Press, 2012)

"Suspended compounds of the form 'water-based and -soluble paint' are licit but likely to confuse readers; substitute 'water-based and water-soluble paint.'" (Amy Einsohn, The Copyeditor's Handbook. University of California Press, 2000)

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Suspended Compound (Grammar)." ThoughtCo, Jun. 14, 2018, Nordquist, Richard. (2018, June 14). Suspended Compound (Grammar). Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Suspended Compound (Grammar)." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 18, 2018).