I typed "no-eating policy" on Google Books. The results use hypens and quotes.

Does this mean that both usages are correct? Is one more common than the other?

Example sentence:

You, as a doctor, should have a no-eating-with-patients/"no eating with patients" policy


2 Answers 2


The conventional choices are to put the phrase inside quotation marks or to hyphenate the words in the phrase without surrounding it in quotation marks.

Both are informal ways of expressing the idea.


However you punctuate it, no eating with patients isn't a recognised "adjective [phrase]" in English. So it's customary to include it in "scare quotes" to alert the reader to the fact that you're using English in a non-standard way. It's also customary to hyphenate many "phrasal adjectives" when they're used before the relevant noun (policy, here), whereas we're less likely to do this if the adjectival phrase follows the noun. Thus His comment was well expressed, but It was a well-expressed comment. So I suggest you use both orthographic conventions.

Also, check out the different orthographies for (He has) an in your face attitude in Google Books. It's essentially the same syntactic context.

answer transcribed from user1 comment

1 That user comment was from me (FumbleFingers). I'm posting this additional text to acknowledge that I don't really have any justification for my final "use both" advice (almost all writers of the "in-your-face" example use one or the other orthographic convention, not both).

I don't retract that advice - I still still think that sometimes a "belt-and-braces" policy is the best way to go. But it does serve to underline the point that what we're talking about here is a stylistic choice - and unless you're constrained by having to adhere to some particular Style Guide that definitively stipulates one method or another, you're effectively free to choose the one you like best (it's not a matter of "correct / incorrect").

  • You mean I can use both, or that I should them simultaneously? Like: "no-eating with-patients" policy?
    – alexchenco
    Nov 21, 2018 at 15:27

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