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[...] in early parts of this century when it was the most user- and hardware-friendly Linux operating system available [...]

Is the user- fragment valid (outside this technical/informal context)?

The usage in this context is clear, as it's just avoiding the repetition of -friendly, but is it correct?

Would it be more correct to omit the hyphen?

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This is pretty standard usage. –  Karl Knechtel Aug 29 '11 at 15:02
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An example of the hyphen series @phenry describes: This kind of mouse is designed using bilateral symmetry, making it convenient for either left- or right-handed individuals. –  Robusto Aug 29 '11 at 16:05
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up vote 16 down vote accepted

The Chicago Manual of Style advises:

When the second part of a hyphenated expression is omitted, the hyphen is retained, followed by a word space.

The hanging hyphen sets the reader up to expect a series of hyphenated expressions, all of which have the same second part. If you omit the hanging hyphen, therefore, it's not clear that the series has begun until it is already over, which may force the reader to go back and re-read the sentence for clarity.

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You beat me by 3 seconds, so to amplify here's part of what I was about to post: Omitting the hyphen is incorrect, resulting in "user" and "hardware-friendly Linux OS" as operands in the conjunction, which doesn't make sense. Your choices are "user- and hardware-friendly" and "user-friendly and hardware-friendly"; the latter is cumbersome. –  Monica Cellio Aug 29 '11 at 15:08
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But, @MonicaCellio, it can add needed clarity as in this duplicate –  Pureferret Jan 11 '12 at 17:04
    
@Pureferret, agreed that in such a short example the extra clarity is helpful. I think that's less of a concern for full words like in this post. –  Monica Cellio Jan 12 '12 at 2:10
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