Business Writing

Talk, tips, and best picks for writers on the job.

Syntax Training | Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

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June 13, 2016



I would consider adding four hyphens:

Fran Moore

Five hyphens are needed:

Actually, we could use some commas, too.


Hi Lynn, thank you for picking the topic of hyphens. I think it is very practical and useful. I am not a native English speaker and I would easily to overlook the issue in daily life. For the question, I would inser two hyphens in the passage above: Top-floor master suite and 5-piece bathroom. Could you advise if it is right or I missed any other hyphen? Thank you.

Jane Braynard Barr

My list is the same as Fran Moore's. I would normally spell out "five" for the 5-piece bathroom but have noticed that most ads and flyers favor numerals over text. Would you agree that marketing rarely conforms when it comes to rules of grammar? Many thanks for this exercise!


I agree with Fran's list.

Kathrine O'Neill

I agree with Fran's list and her comment about missing commas. I also agree with Jane's comment about spelling out five rather than 5. However, it does seem we are losing the battle in the numbers game.

Linda M

5-piece (would have spelled five out)

My question is does great room; gourmet kitchen; floating stairs; roof deck; storage room or wet bar qualify for the hyphen treatment?


I agree with Jane.


Six hyphens are needed:

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Thanks for playing, everyone. I agree with Fran and her fans. These expressions must be hyphenated:

stand-alone--because it's not a stand home or an alone home.
top-floor--because it's not a top master suite or a floor master suite.
spa-like--because it's not a spa bathroom or a like bathroom.
5-piece--because it's not 5 bathrooms or a piece bathroom.
off-street--because it's not off parking or street parking.

I would not hyphenate "custom steel" although it does depend on the writer's meaning. I believe the meaning is steel railings that are custom--not railings that are custom steel.

None of the other expressions needs hyphens--at least not the way they are used in the passage. Linda, you asked about "great room" and others. If we said "this condo has a "great-room layout," the hyphen would be correct because the parts of the adjective ("great" and "room") must be connected.

I can see only one place where we might insert a comma: between "sleek" and "modern." However, I don't feel it's required. We can interpret it as a modern fireplace that happens to be sleek--not as a fireplace that is modern and sleek.

I hope I have addressed all your comments and questions.



Very informative post.

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