Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hyphenate phrasal adjectives

This needs a hyphen:

excessive fee litigation

Does this mean that fee litigation is excessive? Or does it mean that the litigation is about excessive fees? As written, it means the first, but the writer intended it to mean the second. Here's how it should have been punctuated:

excessive-fee litigation

Lawyers don't hyphenate their phrasal adjectives enough.

For more guidance, see Garner, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage at page 657.

Hat tip to the (new) legal writer.

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