Shortening similar compound words in an enumeration

In Dutch – a language with many compound words – it is common to leave out the common last part of compound words in an enumeration, and write a hyphen instead. In English it would look like this:

She uses tele- and videoconferencing extensively.

However, I can’t recall having ever seen something like this in English, most likely because English doesn’t have as many compound words.

Does this practice also exist in English? If yes, is it allowed in formal writing? Or if no, how would you write such a sentence without sounding overly verbose?


This is fairly common in what you might call ‘low-formal’ registers – the language of techno- and bureaucrats.

I myself find it unexceptionable when the leading elements are normally separated from the trailing element by hyphens; this is really no different from an ordinary conjunct modifier, where the separation is by space rather than hyphen.

pre- and post-Vietnam politics
low- and medium-return investments

I accept it grudgingly when the leading elements are common prefixes which commonly stand in contrast:

fore- and hindsight
bi- and tripolar

But in circumstances such as your example, and my own tongue-in-cheek construction at the top, where the leading elements contrast only in that specific context, I think too much effort is required of the reader; you’re sacrificing the flow of your sentence in order to save a dozen keystrokes.

Source : Link , Question Author : Daniel A.A. Pelsmaeker , Answer Author : StoneyB on hiatus

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