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The first principle of legal writing is surely its clarity — visible actors (unless the action matters more), uncluttered syntax, and, of course, logical structure. But the little things can matter to clarity, too — such as deliberate punctuation that signifies. In the language of law, in which compound nouns are rife, the reader can feel adrift as to where modifiers end and the noun begins. (Consider government-subsidized health flexible-spending arrangement without those hyphens.) Hyphens help. Whether an author cares to hyphenate the noun is his call; but hyphenating compound modifiers (also called phrasal adjectives, though they may include adverbs — more-abundant paperclips) follows a logic that is worth learning. This essay describes that logic. But its pitch is that legal writing, of all writing disciplines, should practice a deliberate, consistent use of such hyphens, rather than the more-relaxed practice readers see in less-formal writing (whose effects, of course, are usually also less consequential).

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Legal composition, Punctuation, Grammar Comparative and general--Syntax