second-largest vs. second largest

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.

Thanks!;)
 
  • 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.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    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.)
     

    rubes1

    Senior Member
    United States, English
    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.)

    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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