Apple pie-order


According to today's newspaper, Kate Middleton's brother runs a company that sells "apple pie-scented candles".

This common form of hyphenation is illogical, in that it suggests a closer link between pie and scented than between apple and pie. The unnatural phrasing distracts the reader. What is pie-scent, and how does apple fit into the sentence structure?

Apple-pie-scented candles more accurately represents the meaning and it reflects the normal rhythm of speech. These rhythms are routinely but unconsciously used by speakers and listeners to resolve what would be ambiguities in uninflected text.

Fowler acknowledges the validity of multiple hyphens (and the occasional need to use them to avoid the pie-scent error) but he prefers side-stepping the problem if the sentence can be more elegantly re-phrased using prepositions. So he might have preferred, but does not stipulate, something like candles with the scent of apple pie. Another possibility, following advice in his 2nd but not 3rd edition, is applepie-scented.


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