I'm currently writing an essay. I don't know whether or not it's 'dubious looking' or 'dubious-looking' when describing a noun.
For example, 'dubious(-)looking' form. I know the hyphen is used when the two words are used as adjectives. One teacher has told me that you use the hyphen when two nouns work as adjectives. Looking is an adjective and so is dubious. Does the hyphen rule still apply?

  • @Astralbee, thank you for your recommendation. I appreciate your suggestions, but by any chance, do you know the answer to my question? Also, I'm new here, so can you also explain why other users are modifying my original text? Thank you!
    – Jan
    Dec 23, 2020 at 20:32
  • Reputable users can modify questions. They might do that to correct spelling, grammar, or to help a good question meet the criteria. It isn't malicious, it is to try and help. If they thought your question was bad, they'd vote it down.
    – Astralbee
    Dec 24, 2020 at 8:24

2 Answers 2


Yes, you should use the hyphen.


I saw a dubious-looking glass.

With the hyphen, it is clear we are talking about a glass which looks dubious.

Without the hyphen, a reader might think that the noun is 'looking glass' (an old-fashioned term for a mirror) and the adjective 'dubious' is describing it. The hyphen joins the words that link to form an adjective and make this distinct from the noun.

The same is true of common expressions like 'good-looking' - this is always hyphenated.

Also, 'looking' is not an adjective except when in a compound like this. Alone it is a verb, to look.


Use hyphens when a group of words is an adjective before a noun:

It's an easy-to-use camera.

"Easy-to-use" is the adjective that modifies "camera"

Omit hyphens if the adjective words don't have a noun after:

The camera is easy to use."

"easy to use" is an adjective phrase that modifies "camera", but it comes after the noun, so omit the hyphens

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