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General Writing and Grammar Help/compound modifier hyphenation


I deal with compound modifiers frequently in my work. Sometimes I'm not sure how to properly hyphenate them. The following is a typical example, where "Company Name" represents a generic business. Without rephrasing, how would I hyphenate this?

a non Company Name authorized service

My best guess would be "a non-Company Name-authorized service."

Thanks, Matt, for your question. Let's assume the company name is Apex. I take it you'd like to refer to a service not authorized by Apex.

There's really no good way to combine the modifiers by hyphenation. Your indicated "best guess" is probably the best you could do, but it's really not good enough. The basic test of language is whether it clearly conveys the thoughts to be expressed, and no hyphenated expression meets that test in this case. I would simply say, "A service not authorized by Apex."

I'd be interested in why you feel the need to use hyphenation for such an expression.  

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Richard Johnson


I can answer any question--usually the same day--on correct English grammar, usage, and (non-fiction) writing style, usually the same day, based on the American practice. All answers are explained, and I encourage follow-up.


I'm a retired editor and a lifelong student of this subject. My library includes a great many works to which I've referred through the years. I currently rely primarily on the sixteenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style.

For over 30 years I edited the newsletter of my own organization, which had different names but was last known as

BA, Brooklyn College. Advanced studies in economics and political science.

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For many years a member of Mensa.

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