When Do ‘More’ and ‘Most’ Need A Hyphen?

Window that says customer satisfaction and a hand pointing at itLet’s say one of your company’s goals for 2016 is “to achieve more satisfied customers.”

Does that mean you want to expand your customer base to include more customers who are satisfied?

Or does it mean you want to raise the level of satisfaction of your current customers?

There are multiple reasons to connect two — and sometimes more — words with a hyphen; one is to create a compound modifier. Modifiers clarify meaning.

For example, if you add a hyphen to more satisfied customers — which without a hyphen would be interpreted as a greater numbers of customers — you get more-satisfied customers, which clarifies that the goal is to raise the level of  customer satisfaction.

Consider how a hyphen changes these meanings of more:

Party strategists hope to avoid a nomination fight, thereby creating more unified voters. (greater numbers of unified voters)

Party strategists hope to avoid a nomination fight, thereby creating more-unified voters. (voters who have a stronger sense of unity)

 

Surprisingly, smaller state universities can offer more extensive online courses than their larger counterparts. (a broader selection of courses)

Surprisingly, smaller state universities can offer more-extensive online courses than their larger counterparts. (courses with greater detail and depth)

 

Veterans who take part in honor flights typically travel with companions, as more mobile people can help them get around the war memorials.
(greater numbers of people who are mobile)

Veterans who take part in honor flights typically travel with companions, as more-mobile people can help them get around the war memorials.
(people with greater mobility)

 

The medical side of the business involves more precise specifications than does the commercial side. (a larger number of precise specifications)

The medical side of the business involves more-precise specifications than does the commercial side. (specifications with a higher degree of precision)

 

Using most as a modifier also can require a hyphen to clarify meaning:

Most recent survey results indicate it will be a close election.
(a majority of results from recent surveys)

Most-recent survey results indicate it will be a close election.
(results from surveys conducted in the immediate past)

 

The new physician referred the most complex cases to a specialist.
(greatest number of complex cases)

The new physician referred the most-complex cases to a specialist.
(cases with the greatest complexity)

 

The Gerber directory listed the most popular baby names.
(greatest number of popular names)

The Gerber directory listed the most-popular baby names.
(names highest in popularity)

 

Hyphens are joiners. Recommendations for use vary. My favorite resource, The Associated Press Stylebook, suggests using them sparingly.

However, the examples cited above show that a little hyphen can make a big difference in the meaning of more and most.

For more, see these previous posts: Ruthless Editor insights and tips on hyphen use

You’ll Love This Hyphen Shortcut

4 Things To Remember About Compound Modifiers

How NOT To Blog

Grammatical Errors Mark Medical Discussions

Comments? Grammar questions for the Ruthless Editor? Add a comment below or send an email to tell me what’s on your mind:

Kathy@RuthlessEditor.com

 

Kathy Watson
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Kathy Watson

Kathy has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)

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