Modifiers: -ed in compound modifiers

January 29, 2009: Issue 275

Use -ed in a compound adjective when you’re describing modification to an existing object:
walnut-stained cabinets
a granite-topped buffet

The cabinets and the buffet were there before the stain was applied or the granite was placed.

When you name an integral quality, however, don’t use -ed:
nine-pane windows
a barrel-vault ceiling

There was no window until the panes came together. The ceiling was built as a barrel vault; it wasn’t built flat and then vaulted.

Note that this rule applies to compound modifiers. A single word in a similar construction often requires the -ed:
paned windows
a vaulted ceiling

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