Possible Duplicates:
To hyphenate or not?
When is it necessary to use a hyphen in writing a compound word?
When is it appropriate to use a hyphen?

In the sentence "Portland is known to be one of the most bike friendly cities in the US", is a hyphen necessary in "bike friendly"? As far as I know, the hyphen is only required when leaving it out would cause ambiguity. Wikipedia uses the example of "a small appliance factory" vs "a small-appliance factory".

As far as I can tell, the sentence above is pretty clear. A quick google search for "bike friendly city" brings up instances of both hyphenated and non-hyphenated usage. Thoughts?

Please excuse the poor formatting, sent from my iPhone.

  • Not exactly. Boiling hot is an adjective-adjective compound, whereas bike friendly is a noun-adjective compound. And since the need for a hyphen is subjective, I guess my real question (if it requires further clarification) is, "Is this sentence clear enough as written to do away with the hyphen?"
    – Dennis
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 8:36
  • The answer to compound adjectives is in the first answer. The poster specifically refers to hyphens for that context.
    – user10893
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 8:39
  • Also see english.stackexchange.com/questions/889/…
    – JoseK
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 9:05
  • One rule that I have seen, and which I use, is to always hyphenate compound adjectives when they precede the noun. So according to this rule, it should be "bike-friendly city". But I believe that both prescriptions and usage vary for compound-adjective hyphenation. Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 14:38

2 Answers 2


The only reason that I'd use 'bike-friendly' in the sentence is that it makes the sentence slightly easier to read IMO - leaving out the hyphen causes my brain to momentarily check that 'most bike' doesn't mean anything, whereas the hyphen removes even the possibility of ambiguity. But that could be just my brain :)


Comma Sense—a fun-damental guide to punctuation reports the following text:

Often hyphens join two or more words that, taken together, form an adjective. The tin-of-ear among us write three day shipping and eight man crew. But the clear-eared, hearing no pause between the two or more words that make up the modifier, write three-day shipping and eight-man crew, as well as front-office decision, state-of-the-art technology, zero-tolerance approach, and—well, you get the idea.

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