Hyphens in compound adjectives

Monday, July 28, 2014

There is a large store in my city where you can buy materials for do-it-yourself home improvement projects and I saw a confusing road sign promoting one of their products.

The sign read: No Cut Block Projects. What kind of projects? For sure it is a project involving blocks. Maybe they don’t have cut block projects. “No” could mean they don’t offer them, but I think they really mean that you don’t need to cut the blocks for these projects. The blocks are cut for you: No-Cut Block Projects.

This was unclear to me because of one single hyphen, actually a missing hyphen needed in the compound adjective No-Cut. A compound adjective is an adjective that consists of more than one word. Usually a hyphen is used to link the words together to show that it is one adjective. Did you notice the compound adjective do-it-yourself in the first paragraph?

To communicate (or advertise) effectlively, the reader must not be given little puzzles to decipher to understand a message. No Cut Block Projects is a perfect, real life example where a hyphen is needed.

Remember that omitting the hyphen in a compound adjective leads to a difference in meaning and confusion.

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