second-largest vs. second largest

Discussion in 'English Only' started by rubes1, Jul 31, 2007.

  1. rubes1 Senior Member

    United States, English
    I am editing a piece by a native English speaker and he hyphenates ordinal numbers and the adjective that follows, i.e. second-largest. I have not encountered this often, so I did a quick search on the NY Times website & they are not consistent on this matter. The question is, which is more correct? I prefer no hyphen, but I'd like to hear your opinions as well.

  2. Musical Chairs Senior Member

    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    I always do it without the hyphen, and that's how I see it all the time.
  3. mjscott Senior Member

    I always do it with the hyphen.
  4. rubes1 Senior Member

    United States, English
    Thank you, but I guess we do not have a consensus!:) I have seen it more often without the hyphen, though I'm not sure which is actually the most grammatically correct.
  5. liliput

    liliput Senior Member

    U.K. English
    I can't see any need for a hyphen here.
  6. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I should declare some bias in that if in doubt I hyphenate.
    I don't think you'll find any source to say that either is grammatically correct. The use of hyphens in many cases is a matter of style, not rule.

    In this case, second and largest are not two distinct adjectives. As there can only be one largest banana, the concept of a second, largest banana is illogical. So I would prefer the second-largest banana.
    (That's a lie of course, because I would prefer the largest banana, but sometimes one must bend the truth to convey the message.)
  7. rubes1 Senior Member

    United States, English
    Thanks Panjandrum and thanks to all of you for your input. I think then if there is correct or incorrect, the best rule to go with is consistency!!!!;)

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