Some answers on this site obviate the question by rewording the question's example. For instance, suppose that you asked,

Is it better to hyphenate a multiword compound modifier in the manner of "the seventy-six-trombone parade" or in that of "the seventy-six trombone parade"?

Suppose that I answered,

Why not just write, "the parade that has seventy-six trombones"?

Does the site consider such an answer good?

The site features many such answers, and not a few comments of the same kind. (I would prefer not to single out particular instances here, but instances are not hard to find.) Some of these answers and comments are by users of high reputation, which is why I ask.

2 Answers 2


I say that's the first half of a good answer. The second half is to point to some general rule of English grammar according to which the original formulation suffers from some defect, and that a reformulation is advisable.

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    Good point about an alternative being only part of a good answer. Unless you clearly identify why the OP's intended approach is "unsalvageable" all you've really got is a comment. Jul 16, 2013 at 4:25

You have provided a great example of why questions like

Is it better to hyphenate a multiword compound modifier in the manner of "the seventy-six-trombone parade" or in that of "the seventy-six trombone parade"?

are not a good fit for this site.

Questions such as these don't ask for style rules or consideration of general principles, but rather boil down to opinions on the best way to write something, which are off-topic.

Therefore, my suggestion is to leave the answer as a comment (if you wish) and put the question on hold until the OP can rephrase it to more appropriately.

And in summary, no, these are not considered good answers because they are not sourced, they rely on opinion, and provide little or no value to future readers due to their limited scope.

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    I'd query that last point since many of the answers on this site are based on the intuitions (i.e., opinions) of native English speakers. Site users do not normally require that judgments of well-formedness be sourced.
    – user31341
    Jul 16, 2013 at 2:35
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    I'm confused. Surely the question about whether to use one or two hyphens was posed because the OP assumed there was (or at least, might be) a standard rule of style involved? I think such questions are tiresome, but I also think this one's very similar to our most popular question ever, by far Jul 16, 2013 at 4:17
  • Oh @FumbleFingers! That question is quite different, in that it has many layers of nuance. It is amusing, delightful and the person who asked the question clearly put some effort into writing it. Thank you for citing it. I'm very happy that it is our most popular question, ever! Jul 17, 2013 at 0:03
  • @Fumble possibly the OP thinks so, but the OP ought then say so and cite the style sources they've already consulted. In other words, the onus is on the OP to demonstrate that the question isn'ta one-off.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Jul 17, 2013 at 0:24
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    @ KitFox: Oh, c'mon! I've got reasonable command of English, and I know how to Google most things. But I wouldn't have a clue how to definitively answer this hypothetical question about forming a longer hyphenated form including elements which are normally already hyphenated themselves. Nor do I see that top-rated [sic] question is anything other than a larky "one-off" that was asked more for the sake of being quirky than because the OP faced any real-world situation where he needed to know "correct" usage but couldn't find it in any reference works. Jul 17, 2013 at 0:41

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