A "15-20-minute talk" or a "15-20 minute talk": hyphen with compound premodifiers

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Hi everybody!

There is a well known rule that you should use a singular noun and a hyphen in case of a compound modifier:

a fifteen-minute talk (= a talk of fifteen minutes)

This rule, however, only covers situations with a clear single number (fifteen in this case). What about the situations when you want to use a range:

Let us talk for 15-20 minutes.

Do we use a hyphen after the range here:

Let us have a 15-20-minute talk. (or is this second hyphen unnecessary?)

Thank you in advance for your kind answers.
  • suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I wouldn't use it. But then, I doubt that I would use a hyphen in your first example (which you cite as a well established rule) so I guess there might be a difference of opinion amongst different folk here.

    In your "15-20 minute talk" the hyphen is actually READ as though it says "to". fifteen to twenty minute talk. I would use that one, obviously.


    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    I'm in two minds about this one. I would not hesitate to use a hyphen in a half-hour talk or a two-horse race or even a 100-storey building, but I'm not at all sure about "a fifteen-minute talk" or even a "15-minute talk".
    Logically it ought to behave the same, but I have misgivings I know not why. Chances are that, after due hesitation, I would just go ahead and put in the hyphen. If so, I would also write "15-20-minute talk".

    If writing out the numbers, this presents an additional problem. Is it "fifteen to twenty-minute talk" or "fifteen-to-twenty-minute talk"? :(:confused: I'd probably go with the latter.
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