How does one correctly use hyphens in the following contexts?

I read a few articles from APA Style Blog’s “Hyphenation Station” series (, and I’m using these tips to guide my writing.

I was wondering if anyone on this forum could help me alleviate some confusion with DIY (craft and baking) article hyphenations.

In particular, for each bullet point, I’m not sure which of the two bolded options is correct:

  • “Place the X-Acto-knife-cut squares to the side” or “Place the X-Acto knife cut squares to the side” (At least to me, it seems like a hyphen is not needed because there wouldn’t be any confusion between “X-Acto knife cut and X-Acto-knife-cut in the context)
  • “Using dual-toned material is optional” or “Using dual toned material is optional” (A hyphen might be warranted in this situation for the same reason listed above)
  • “Your triple-layered dessert is now complete” or “Your triple layered dessert is now complete” (Not sure if a hyphen is needed, because the sentence indicates one dessert is ready)
  • “I recommend this machine for its material-handling capabilities” or “I recommend this machine for its material handling capabilities” (I think a hyphen would make this statement clearer)
  • “You don’t need large-format material cutting and printing” or “You don’t need large format material cutting and printing” (I think a hyphen would be useful for clarity, but when I Google large-format, I don’t see a hyphen used in the vast majority of the results)

Any help would be VERY much appreciated!



In all but the first example, the compound modifiers come before the noun and ordinarily should be hyphenated. However, Words Into Type says, “If there is scarcely any possibility of misreading, hyphens need not be used.” Though you could argue that the examples might be hard to misread, the hyphens do add clarity and aren’t intrusive and so should not distract a reader. The first example is addressed by Words Into Type as well: it points out that “three quarters of a billion dollar business” is unclear and could be fixed with hyphens but that a better remedy would be to order the words differently: “a business worth three quarters of a billion dollars.” I would change your first example to something like “Place the squares cut with the X-Acto knife to the side.”

Source : Link , Question Author : SalsaFiesta , Answer Author : Literalman

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