To explain why English compounds generally avoid internal inflectional suffixation (e.g., key-chain rather than keys-chain), linguists have often invoked the Level Ordering Hypothesis, that is, that particular types of morphology, in this case inflectional suffixation, are derivationally ordered after compounding. However, a broad range of counter-examples and conceptual objections to Level Ordering have emerged. We propose an alternative account, based on the observation that certain English inflectional suffixes are more perceptible than others (-ing > -s > -ed), and that these suffixes are less crucial to lexical access and recovery of meaning than corresponding root-final segments. This proposal was tested in perception and production experiments. In the perception experiment, compounds with a nonsense word as modifier (e.g., dacks van, dacked van) were auditorily presented to native English speakers, who were asked to spell what they heard. The participants omitted significantly more -ed than -s or -ing. In the production experiment, native English speakers read these compounds. The speakers dropped significantly more -ed than -s or -ing. Furthermore, they dropped more of these sounds when they were spelled as affixes than as part of the root (e.g., dacked van vs. dact van). These results suggest that English speakers’ avoidance or inclusion of inflection in compounds is based not on Level Ordering but on perceptibility, as well as the status of the consonant as an affix. We further present a formal analysis capturing these factors in terms of Steriade’s Licensing-by-Cue proposal.