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Should I hyphenate the phrase "pedestrian detection algorithm" in the example sentence below? The algorithm is designed to detect pedestrians. However, I am worried that it could be misread as a pedestrian "detection algorithm", whereby the phrase "detection algorithm" is being modified by the adjective "pedestrian".

The pedestrian detection algorithm detects the humans in the ROI using two-step (LBP-AdaBoost and HOG-SVM) classifiers.

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    "I am worried that ..." Needless worry. Absence of hyphen does not create ambiguity here because the context is entirely clear. Use the hyphenated phrase where there's an eminent case of potential ambiguity unlike here. – Kris Jan 21 '15 at 7:21
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    @Kris: That's an answer, not a comment. – Nathan Tuggy Jan 21 '15 at 7:30
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Yes, you should. There is no real risk of introducing confusion or annoyance in the reader by including it, and some significant risk of leaving confusion if you leave it out. "Pedestrian-detection" sounds and reads smoothly enough.

I don't have Chicago Manual of Style on hand, but an answer to a more general question suggests that 6.39 applies, which would recommend hyphenation here.

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  • So "road-construction materials" and "witness-protection program" would also be okay? I tried to come up with a combination posing a risk of befuddling the reader similar to that posed by the sentence proposed by Robert, but couldn't find such a combination offhand. – CowperKettle Jan 21 '15 at 6:56
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    They'd be OK, yes, but per my comment on your answer, not really necessary. There's no benefit to speak of, and although the cost is minimal, that doesn't help much. Only a really persnickety editor would come down hard on that, though. – Nathan Tuggy Jan 21 '15 at 6:57
  • Nathan, that's an opinion, not an answer. – Kris Jan 21 '15 at 7:21
  • @Kris Hopefully this is now beyond a mere opinion. – Nathan Tuggy Jan 21 '15 at 7:40
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    I heard an actually ambiguous example on the radio today when a DJ asked his colleagues, "What's the longest living creature in the world?" and they had to ask for clarification, since you can't [always] hear hyphens. – David Garner Jan 22 '15 at 18:06
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Just hyphenate it normally. "pedestrian-detection algorithm" since pedestrian-detection is the name of the algorithm.

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    sounds like circular logic to me. Nobody said the name of the algorith was "Pedestrian-Detection". In fact, if the name were to appear without the word "algorithm", a hyphen would be not only unnecessary, but out of place. – Brian Hitchcock Feb 2 '15 at 23:46

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