Compound adjectives preceding a noun are hyphenated, but how does one properly hyphenate locations? Please include sources.


hyphenated, compound adjective: state-of-the-art technology

city, state compound adjective: Denver, Colorado-based company

location with multiple words: Mountain View, California-based company

example options:

  • Denver-Colorado-based

  • Denver, Colorado-based

  • Denver-, Colorado-, based

  • Denver-based, Colorado-based,

  • There is no compound adjective in your question. Denver and Colorado are proper nouns. – Lambie Sep 20 '18 at 18:42
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    Ain't no "properly" here, so I can't answer your question. The alternatives all look wrong to you, so do what you should always try to do in such circumstances — rephrase: "A company based in Denver, Colorado". – David Sep 28 '18 at 12:45
  • @David Yes, that has been said. – Lambie Nov 4 '18 at 19:12
  • Denver- (Colorado-) based (though I'd avoid this unless absolutely necessary, eg in an accurate transcript). – Edwin Ashworth 17 hours ago

It is sometimes suggested to use an en dash in place of a hyphen when the first element of a compound modifier contains a space. See the example

North America–based company

from Peter Shor's answer to the question How do I hyphenate an open-form compound word with another that should be hyphenated?

I would thus recommend punctuating your examples as "Denver, Colorado–based" and "Mountain View, California–based company" (if you choose not to rephrase).

That said, a few caveats.

  1. Some people apparently feel that you must rephrase. (That's my understanding of Lambie's answer and comment.) To me, that seems like a challenge to your question rather than an answer in and of itself, but I guess I can emphasize this point a bit more to make sure that you're aware of this possible objection to any of these forms. I didn't write much about it in older versions of this answer because I haven't found any sources that say that it is unacceptable to use a name like "Denver, Colorado" as the first part of a compound adjective ending in -based.

  2. I'm not sure exactly what the history of using the en dash this way is, or how widely this usage is accepted or recognized. In a discussion from 2014 about the Wikipedia style guide, Tony writes ("Reasons for my oppose (proposed change 2)") that

    Using an en dash with exactly the same meaning as a hyphen, but in special contexts, is almost exclusively a US invention – and a recent one at that. It first turned up as an option in CMOS12 (1969), where the examples (at 5.91) are all with prefixes ("post–Civil War period") or have two more or less equal elements combined ("New York–London flight"). There's no mention of suffixes, or examples of such a use, though prefixes are specifically mentioned in Table 6.1, with examples there and at 5.91.

    [...] Only with CMOS16 (2010, current edition) do we get two suffix examples (at 6.80). The first three examples in that section: "the post–World War II years" "Chuck Berry–style lyrics" and "country music–influenced". [CMOS introduces these by saying] "it should be used sparingly, and only when a more elegant solution is unavailable"

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    No, this is not right for the question asked. The question was specifically about a city in a state. Not "an open-form compound with another that should be hyphenated." . Denver,Colorado-based in 100% wrong. You do either the city or the state in that specific case, or write: based in Denver,Colorado. Neither Denver or Colorado are compounds or should be hyphenated. Peter Shor's answer is irrelevant here. – Lambie Sep 17 '18 at 20:11

A short, clear answer:

No, "Denver, Colorado-based company" is not used in writing in English about U.S. cities and states. What is used is: Denver-based company or Colorado-based company

For city and state, the standard practice is:

a or the company based in Denver, Colorado

No other standard way of writing this exists.

  • Lambie, that would be broadly true in theory but in fact two things apply: "a or the company based in Denver, Colorado" is one of many possibilities. Whether or not any "standard way" exists is relevant how, exactly? Switching to your wholly different format might well produce a better answer but how is that relevant? Was the Question "what's a better/the best way to rephrase…" or not? – Robbie Goodwin Sep 20 '18 at 0:20
  • None of the four forms listed under the question work. Period, end of story. And, there is no "compound adjective" in the question. And the last paragraph in your answer makes no sense at all. And "Denver, Colorado-based X" is not used. – Lambie Sep 20 '18 at 14:47
  • Of course they don't; no less than "Period, end of story." – Robbie Goodwin Nov 3 '18 at 22:38
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    The short answer is that there are other Denvers in the U.S. And there is New York in Florida, Iowa, Kentucky and New Mexico. And the French often will write (in annual reports or contracts) the town name without the state and then USA after that. So you get: Johnston, USA How about them apples? And I daresay that Americans might say Paris, France when there is some doubt: we have a lot of Parises in the U.S. Take a look: placesnamed.com/p/a/paris.asp But I doubt that an American businessman in London, would say Paris, France. It all depends on context (who is speaking to whom). – Lambie Nov 16 '18 at 21:33
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    @Lambie There are at least three villages called "New York" in England. However if I tell someone I'm going to New York on holiday or business, I would not feel a need to explain that it was the one in America I was going to. There are also several Hollywoods and even a "Moscow" in Scotland. And a small neighbourhood close to where I live is called "California". – WS2 Nov 22 '18 at 10:33

This page https://www.btb.termiumplus.gc.ca/tpv2guides/guides/wrtps/index-eng.html?lang=eng&lettr=indx_catlog_h&page=9i1w-l02pVjM.html makes a fine case for saying Do not hyphenate proper nouns used as adjectives, as for intance a New York State chartered bank but then how should we distinguish between a charterer bank which happens to be located in New York State and one located anywhere but chartered by NYS?

How are locations such as those not postal addresses; like lists or headlines exempt from normal rules?

If your options are as posted then Denver, Colorado-based. Since you're here, is it clear that both Denver-based or Colorado-based should work?

From the point of view of the sentence, there’s no difference except ease of use between a Colorado-based company and a Denver City & County Building, City Hall, 1437 Bannock Street, Denver, CO 80202, USA-based mouthful. It’s just that one is simple and the other awkward.

  • You do not address the issue, which is: Denver-based company; Colorado-based company or, for both, a company based in Denver, Colorado – Lambie Sep 20 '18 at 14:49
  • Please be more realistic. Of course "a company based in Denver, Colorado" is correct but don't you think it avoids the Question, instead of Answering? If you think there's anything unclear or unusual about postal addresses in general or "Denver, Colorado-based…" in particular please explain the problem. – Robbie Goodwin Sep 24 '18 at 18:36
  • No one would write: a Denver,Colorado-based company in any decently written text. – Lambie Sep 24 '18 at 18:41
  • Sorry, Lambie, if that's outside your know-how. My experience is limited to nearly 20 years writing and editing more magazines and newspapers than I remember… dozens, anyway. Anyone who knew what he was doing clearly would write "a Denver, Colorado-based (anything)…"and anyone who couldn't comprehend that would surely be either a special case, or in a small minority. – Robbie Goodwin Sep 24 '18 at 18:54

To be honest it doesn't matter much. In day to day usage of English, nobody really cares about it. If you want to mean "Denver-Colorado-based Company" just use instead "It's a company based in Denver, Colorado" to avoid confusion for the reader while writing.

  • Fair enough, but in day-to-day usage, I care about it. – RubeOnRails Sep 13 '18 at 19:39
  • If you'll notice the answer is given. – шашват Sep 13 '18 at 19:41
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    Do you have any sources? – RubeOnRails Sep 14 '18 at 15:09

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