Consider the following:

The music was perfect for a windows-down, summer's-day car ride.

Is this sentence grammatically correct? The hyphen usage looks particularly odd, but since they are being used as compound adjectives, I was under the impression it was be correct.

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    There are syntactic rules for English that preclude word combinations that no native speaker would find understandable; there are syntactic rules that exclude sentences from standard English. But you're really asking a semantic question -- do your compound adjectives make sense? They seem to me not only understandable, but graceful. As opposed to "a bone-mineral, vulcanized-glacier car ride." I think we'd both nix that. But not on syntactic grounds. – deadrat Nov 1 '15 at 18:57
  • Should have also mentioned what prompted this question. I wrote "wearing often minimalist designs" and Microsoft Word wants to correct this to "wearing often-minimalist designs", which, judging by a quick Google search, is not correct. – cors85 Nov 2 '15 at 0:24

Punctuation, including hyphenation, is a matter of style. Thus you should be guided by your manual of style. I use The Chicago Manual of Style, which gives a table of examples and rules to guide its proponents on hyphenating compound nouns and adjectives. Here you will find what to do with "word of relationship + noun" like brother officer (leave open) and "adverb other than the -ly type + participle or adjective" like often-minimalist (hyphenate before the noun it modifies).

Your novel compounds don't have a place in the table, so your own judgment must be the guide. It seems a good choice to me to hyphenate to emphasize the compound nature of the novelties, but that's just me.

  • So the Chicago Manual does actually advise to hyphenate "often-minimalist" before the noun it modifies i.e. "often-minimalist designs"? If that is the case then so be it. – cors85 Nov 2 '15 at 14:36
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    @cors85 CMS lists some forms by name (e.g., ex-) and others by rule. Often-minimalist is covered by the latter, which prevents the reader from associating the adverb with a nearby verb, as in "wearing often." You seem depressingly resigned (ly-*+participle) to the hyphen in this case, but *CMS is just a guide. If you're not writing for someone who insists you use it, you're free to adopt another more to your taste. – deadrat Nov 2 '15 at 20:09

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