Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Should you hyphenate "fixed income"?

It depends.

There are two schools of thoughts about whether to hyphenate compound adjectives, which is what "fixed income" becomes when you use it as an adjective. It's the "reader-friendly" vs. the "common usage" approach.


Let's talk about "fixed income investing." When you combine an adjective and noun and then use them to describe a second noun, you're creating a compound adjective.

You're also making it more difficult for your readers to interpret your text. They're used to thinking of "income" as a noun, so they may struggle for a moment before they realize that "fixed income" serves as an adjective in "fixed income investing." Following this line of thought, it's kinder to your reader to write "fixed-income investing."

Common usage

Opponents of writing "fixed-income investing" say "fixed income" is so commonly used as an adjective that a hyphen is unnecessary.

Your decision

Grammar Girl says that you should always consider whether a hyphen changes your meaning. As she points out:
  • A hot-water bottle is a bottle for holding hot water.
  • A hot water bottle is a water bottle that is hot.

The Wall Street Journal uses a hyphen when fixed-income is an adjective. What's your decision--fixed-income investing or fixed income investing?

Whichever approach you adopt, be consistent in your usage. That will help your readers know what to expect.

Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Investment Writing
Writing that's an investment in your success

Check out my website at www.InvestmentWriting.com or sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter.

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