I found myself writing the following in a bit of technical documentation:
The Trainers’ and Students’ clients have very little in common, both user interface-wise and code-wise.
At first, I wondered whether I should have written user-interface-wise, user interface-wise, user interface wise or user interfacewise… or some other combination. A quick Google search suggested however that the “-wise” suffix actually isn’t one you can or should use on any word.
What do you suggest? I guess the easiest way out is rephrasing (e.g., not only for what concerns the user interface, but also for actual methods), but I wanted to learn whether appending “-wise” to arbitrary words is incorrect, frowned upon or merely a stylistic choice.
TheFreeDictionary.com gives this usage note:
Usage Note: The suffix -wise has a
long history of use to mean “in the
manner or direction of,” as in
clockwise, otherwise, and slantwise.
Since the 1930s, however, the suffix
has been widely used in the vaguer
sense of “with respect to,” as in This
has not been a good year saleswise.
Taxwise, it is an unattractive
arrangement. Since their introduction,
these usages have been associated with
informal prose, and they are still
considered by many to be awkward. For
this reason, they might best be
avoided, especially in formal writing.
The most obvious alternative is to use
paraphrases, as in This has not been a
good year with respect to sales. As
far as taxes are concerned, it is an
The meat of this suggests that using -wise to mean with respect to is considered informal and even awkward. I suspect that pushing the boundaries as you do in the examples to include such constructions as user interface-wise makes an awkward usage even more awkward, as your own instincts seem to suggest. I generally have no problem with informal speech or writing in informal settings or for emphasis, but whenever I feel I am pushing the envelope I’ll pause, think, and probably recast the sentence.