1. RoFreRa
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    RoFreRa New Member

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    Hyphen for "different size"

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by RoFreRa, Jul 26, 2011.

    Hi everyone, and thanks in advance for any help you may provide.

    I'm having an argument with others (and myself) over using the term "different-size" as an adjective, i.e. "Print on a variety of different-size caps."

    Personally, I'd prefer "different-sized," but that's another discussion. I'm getting editing advice which says that it should say, "different size caps." My argument is that the hyphen should be used because the phrase is being used as an adjective. Without the hyphen, I think the phrase could be taken to mean, "size caps that are different," while it actually means, "caps of different sizes." I'll probably edit the sentence to make it clearer anyway, but I'd like some feedback on whether there should be a hyphen in the original.
     
  2. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think your problem is because you want "differently-sized" or "Print on a variety of caps of differing sizes."
     
  3. RoFreRa
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    RoFreRa New Member

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    You're exactly right - and that became pretty clear while I was writing my question. :redface:

    Is the original wording absolutely wrong, though? I'm asking purely for the benefit of my own pride.
     
  4. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    It depends on the context you used it in. If it's "Different-sized purses," then there IS a hyphen, because different-sized is used as one descriptive term, just like "assorted" or "various." But if it's something like "The bags came in different sizes," then there's no hyphen.

    Think of it this way:

    "Small businesses lined the street." No hyphen, because small describes business and the words are separate terms.

    "The tax raise would hurt small-business owners." This is hyphenated, because small-business is used as one term, and without the hyphen, you'd be talking about small people who own businesses.
     
  5. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I was working on the principle that I prefer to go around walls than through them. If you couldn't decide which was right, chances were that some of your readers would think it wrong whichever you chose. Technically I think you could get away with some version of your original.
     
  6. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm pretty sure that hyphens are not used with adverbs however - if memory serves at least one of the major style guides I've read says so. If "different" is acting as an adverb as you suggest, then there'd then be a good case for not using the hyphen.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    'different-sized' is an adjective and should be hyphenated... but as an editor, i wouldn't consider 'print on a variety of different-sized caps' good writing...

    'different size' can't be used together as an adjective and should not be hyphenated... 'he needed a different size cap' is how it would be used, with only 'different' being the adjective for 'size'...

    'differently-sized' may be ok across the pond, but in american usage would be odd/awkward, possibly ungrammatical...
     
  8. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    So would you go for my work-around of "Print on a variety of caps of differing sizes" (or "...different sizes", or even "...various sizes")?
     
  9. RoFreRa
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    RoFreRa New Member

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    I went with "caps of different sizes." Thanks to everyone who responded.
     
  10. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    "Caps of different sizes" and "different-sized caps" are both equally correct :D
     
  11. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    You're right. It's grammatically incorrect to use a hyphen to join an adverb and an adjective. Anything with the suffix "-ly" can't be hyphenated in this way. These constructions already indicate a compound description, so the hyphen is redundant.
     
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