Hyphens, En Dashes, Em Dashes

Q. Hello! I understand that hyphens work like “treatment-naive patients” but “patients are treatment naive.” However, what would you recommend if the modifier is used alone—e.g., in a graph key? Hyphen or open? Should the key be “Treatment-naive” and “Previously treated,” or “Treatment naive” and “Previously treated”? Thank you!

A. Good question! Either approach would work, but we would lean slightly toward retaining the hyphen. The words “Treatment naive” as a standalone label lack the immediate context a sentence provides, making them prone to a momentary misreading without a hyphen (as they might be before a noun).

But we’d leave “Previously treated” alone as you’ve done; that term, thanks to that ly ending, wouldn’t be hyphenated in any context.