Students learn by trial and error.

Students learn by trial-and-error.

Should "trial and error" be hyphenated or not in the above sentence? What is the rule here? I have seen both usages.

  • 3
    I would only use hyphens when treating the phrase as an adjective - 'a trial-and-error method'. Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 8:32
  • 1
    @KateBunting - many would say further that we only employ hyphens if that compound adjective is used before a noun, e.g. We found the solution by a trial-and-error method. Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 9:07
  • No. It would only be an adjective if you said 'by trial-and-error methods'. Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 7:57

1 Answer 1

  1. You use "trial-and-error" when it functions as an adjective: a trial-and-error method
  2. In other cases you use "trial and error": by trial and error.
  • 1
    I think you mean trial and error.
    – BillJ
    Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 12:14
  • 1
    If you spot a spelling mistake, edit to fix the mistake. That's better than editing to say that there is a mistake.
    – James K
    Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 15:55

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