Business Punctuation: Hyphenated Phrase with Parenthetical Numbers
September 24, 2018 11:35 AM   Subscribe

I need to punctuate something very similar to the following: "Buyer must notify Seller of changes within this three (3) day period." Does the hyphen go after "three," after "(3)", or after both?

I cannot rephrase to something like "within a period of three (3) days." These are legal documents where the lawyers have already wrangled most of the phrasing; I'm just proofreading. I also have several slight variations of the phrase, and not all of them could easily be rephrased even if it were allowed. Besides, now that I've run across it, I'm curious - how do you hyphenate around a parenthetical insert?

(I understand that this may be an archaic practice; however, I'm not going to single-handedly change a large corporation's legal practices today. Assume that the spelled-out numbers must have parentheticals after them.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Upon a little curious googling, this seems to be a very commonly written phrase, including in legal documents, including parenthesized numeral, completely sans hyphen. (I cannot picture a hyphen "looking right" anywhere in there - it gives me the bad punctuation oogy feeling no matter where it is placed.)
posted by wellred at 11:45 AM on September 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I've read a zillion documents with similar phrases and I've never seen a hyphen in that particular phrase.
posted by holborne at 11:47 AM on September 24, 2018

My instinct would be to put the hyphen after the numerical clarification: three (3)-day period, if I used it.
posted by SinAesthetic at 11:50 AM on September 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

The purpose of the hyphen is to clarify which noun the adjective is modifying. An example: "She had a concealed-weapons permit." differs from "She had a concealed weapons permit." (unless she was hiding the weapons permit in her shoe.)

I cannot imagine any way in which someone could argue that your sentence, without the hyphen, referred to anything other than a period of 3 days.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:51 AM on September 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Professional copy editor here, though in medicine, not law. We wouldn't have anything exactly like this because we don't need to use both versions of numbers, but in similar circumstances with abbreviations, the journal I work for would use "three-day (3-day) period." We would never attach a hyphen to a parenthesis.

But I think this is really a style issue rather than a matter of something being right or wrong.
posted by FencingGal at 11:52 AM on September 24, 2018 [20 favorites]

Agreed. I don't think there's a need for a hyphen here. I've seen plenty of contracts that include this type of language and I can't recall ever seeing a hyphen used.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:52 AM on September 24, 2018

Also, if you're a proofreader, it's very possible that some higher up who doesn't really know anything about punctuation will have Very Strong Feelings about this and overrule you. Ask me how I know.
posted by FencingGal at 11:57 AM on September 24, 2018 [18 favorites]

No hyphen needed. If you have to put one in for some reason, after the (3).
posted by praemunire at 12:45 PM on September 24, 2018

I have been overruled; the lawyer likes the unhyphenated versions. Apparently this is a thing among lawyers - many of them think hyphens look "cluttered," and of course nobody could misunderstand the phrase as they've used it, so who cares what the rules of grammar say?

Bleh. Thank you all for your help; going forward, I'll put in the hyphens as best I can and try to get some of them to stick.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:12 PM on October 24, 2018

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