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Noun and participle compounds

In British English, ought one (or at least may one) generally hyphenate in the prepositive position and not in the postpositive position when dealing with the adjectival form of compounds consisting of participle+noun?

They used the latest cutting-edge technology.
Their technology is cutting edge.

Similarly, ought one (may one) generally hyphenate compounds consisting of noun+participle when they appear before a noun and leave them open otherwise?

They had an axe-wielding neighbour.
Their neighbour had had a busy day of axe wielding.


  • Follow-up question:

    Is 'cutting edge' not being used as an adjective compound in the sentence 'Their technology is cutting edge'?

  • Hi @norwegianblue. Here's some information from New Hart’s Rules which might help:

    Compound modifiers that follow a noun do not need hyphens:

    • The story is well known
    • The records are not up to date

    But a compound expression preceding the noun is generally hyphenated when it forms a unit modifying the noun:

    • A well-known story
    • Up-to-date records
  • Thank you. I have Hart's. The rule is a general one, afaik, though. So I was wondering about these particular types of compounds.

    Part of the reason I wonder is because I cannot find the adjective 'cutting-edge' open in any of the examples listed in the Oxford Dictionary (Premium version), and it seems to give it clearly as hyphenated when an adjective.

    However, perhaps these types of compounds are only considered adjectives when they appear in front of the noun, as opposed to flame retardant, where there are examples under the adjective form which illustrate the difference. Under 'flame retardant', there appears to be a difference in how the adjectival form is put down though. Or perhaps the Oxford Dictionary simply did not include any examples of the adjective form of the compound in the predicate position.

    I find it a little frustrating that all style guides tell you to look up a good dictionary, yet it is difficult to make out when the dictionary tells you when the hyphenated version is a permanent compound, so to speak. Or, difficult for me, that is. I need to break the code of reading the dictionary! But I don't know how to go about doing that.

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