So you write high school, but high-school student. (Otherwise, you might momentarily think that the student had been inhaling.) It’s popular music, but popular-music critic. (Otherwise, you might think it’s the critic who’s popular, not the music.) It’s to spare your reader these momentary false starts — what Garner calls “miscues” — that we use hyphens. As Garner puts it, it’s all about having empathy for your reader, and “to make reading easier and faster.” Many writers bristle at peppering their writing with all those hyphens, thinking that they’re cluttering up their writing with little black lines. Garner disagrees: “Some writers — those who haven’t cultivated an empathy for their readers — would omit all those hyphens.
Small Firms, Big Lawyers: The ‘Lost’ Art of Hyphens « Above the Law: A Legal Tabloid - News and Colorful Commentary on Law Firms and the Legal Profession