Alternatives to Hyphens in Compound Adjectives

The Quick Answer
A single adjective made up of more than one word is called a compound adjective.

The parts of a compound adjective are often joined together with hyphen(s) to show it is just one adjective (e.g., a four-seater aircraft, a double-glazing salesman).

However, it is possible to group the words in a compound adjective using title case if it's a title (e.g., Billy Elliot tickets), italics (especially if it's a foreign term) (e.g., ab initio course), and quotation marks (e.g., a "get out now" look).

Alternatives to Hyphens in Compound Adjectives

Although hyphens are most commonly used to link the parts of a compound adjective together, this linking can also be done with title case (i.e., the use of capital letters), italics, quotation marks, or a combination of these.

Here are some examples:
  • Anna gave George her "don't you dare" look.
  • (The compound adjective could have been written as don't-you-dare. However, for style purposes, the writer chose to group the elements of the adjective using quotation marks.)
  • The actions align with Dayton Peace Accord regulations.
  • (When titles are used as adjectives, it is more appropriate to use title case to group the adjective together. In this example, the compound adjective is Dayton Peace Accord.)
  • It is an exclusive restaurant with an a la carte menu.
  • (When foreign terms are used as an adjective, they are often grouped using italics.)
  • Darren ordered a pair of Phantom of the Opera tickets.
  • (This is a combination of italics and title case to group the compound adjective.)
  • Adam will be carrying a "United Colors of Benetton" bag.
  • (This is a combination of quotation marks and title case.)

See Also

What are adjectives? What are compound adjectives? Hyphens in compound adjectives Hyphens in compound nouns Hyphens in prefixes