Floating Hyphens

Every now and then we may run into a situation where we have two hyphenated words in the same sentence, and each of them has the same word to the right of the hyphen.

Bad Example:
The pressure-dependent and temperature-dependent properties need to be input into the model before running the simulator.

This certainly sounds redundantly repetitive, and it is.
That is why we use a “floating” or “suspended” hyphen for the first occurrence. This construction is also called a hanging hyphen or a dangling hyphen.

Good Examples:
The pressure- and temperature-dependent properties need to be input into the model before running the simulator.
Simultaneous translation was available for French- and Spanish-speaking delegates.
He listened to classical music written by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century composers.
This chemical additive should not be used if there are any phosphorus- or sulfur-containing compounds in the solution.

Many nontechnical editors prefer to avoid floating hyphens by rewording the sentence.

Examples:
He listened to classical music written by composers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
This chemical additive should not be used if the solution has any compounds containing phosphorus or sulfur.

However, the SPE Style Guide and several other style guides say it’s OK, and the floating hyphen certainly comes in handy on occasion.

By the way, the hanging hyphen can also dangle on the other side.
Example:
The Eni-owned and -operated Blacktip gas field lies off the northern coast of Australia.

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