Do I hyphenate between Moose and Viewing in Moose Viewing Capital of Colorado?

  • 3
    I would, otherwise it could be interpreted as a Moose who is viewing the capital of Colorado. Commented May 13, 2019 at 5:17
  • Since it is a title awarded to North Park by the Colorado state legislature, you could decide to use the words they used in awarding the title, which seems not use hyphens. Rather like saying that the person who is a doctor of philosophy from the University of Oxford is a DPhil rather than a PhD as used elsewhere, simply because that is what Oxford actually awards and abbreviates to
    – Henry
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 13:50

3 Answers 3


Yes, this is a compound modifier preceding a noun, so you should indeed hyphenate "moose-viewing."

Edited to add: Closely analogous examples, all from the New York Times, include the following:

"the hamlet of Roscoe, an unofficial fly-fishing capital" (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/25/t-magazine/debruce-hotel-catskills-classic-trash-tee-editors-picks.html?login=email&auth=login-email)

"Hunterdon County has retained its distinction as the deer-hunting capital of New Jersey" (https://www.nytimes.com/1985/01/06/nyregion/the-environment.html)

"Tonight will mark the 34th moon-viewing party in the museum's Japanese garden" (https://www.nytimes.com/1999/08/29/nyregion/the-guide-208795.html)


The phrase could be punctuated (and misinterpreted) in the following three ways:

✘ 1. Moose Viewing Capital of Colorado

A moose that is viewing the capital of Colorado.

✘ 2. Moose-Viewing Capital of Colorado

The capital of Colorado that is viewing moose.

It's possible this could be interpreted in the desired sense—but not necessarily, nor does it follow the normal use of adjectives and nouns.


The road-devouring car.
The soul-sucking job.

In both of these cases, the adjectives are metaphorical, but they still describe things that the nouns do. However, even metaphorically, it makes no sense to say that the capital is viewing moose. In actuality, it's the people living in the capital who are doing the viewing.

✘ 3. Moose Viewing-Capital of Colorado.

The viewing capital of Colorado that moose use.

So, it cannot be left without hyphenation, and neither of the singly hyphenated versions works.

In terms of hyphenation, that leaves this:

✔ Moose-Viewing-Capital of Colorado

Note that in doing this, in order to ensure semantic understanding, it changes the phrase into a compound noun. It becomes something like mother-in-law, where it now acts as a single syntactical unit.

However, even though I believe this is the only technical way to avoid misinterpretations, I think the subtle use of the hyphenation would be lost on most people. Hyphenation (of any form) or not, I think that many people could still find ways to be confused over this phrasing.

I think the best way of avoiding confusion is to rephrase the title.

Moose Capital of Colorado

This describes it as the the best place for moose. What it is about moose is left unstated, but if it's known for moose, the implication would be that it would also be a good place to view them.

Are there different places that are better for different things related to moose, such that one place is the best for viewing them but another is the best for something else? Does the word viewing have to be part of the title?

If so, then one possibility is:

Capital of Moose-Viewing.

Also possible is:

Colorado's Best Place to View Moose

Is capital being used figuratively—or is it talking about Denver, the actual capital? If the latter, then perhaps:

Denver: Colorado's Best Place to View Moose

  • 2
    "Moose-Viewing-Capital" doesn't work for me at all. "Moose-Viewing Capital" is impossible to misinterpret unless you are deliberately being awkward.
    – TonyK
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 13:12
  • 1
    @TonyK Completely agree. Nobody is going to accidentally interpret "Moose-viewing capital of Colorado" as meaning that the capital of Colorado is viewing moose. Cities don't view, and no reasonable human is going to come to the nonsense interpretation of "the capital is viewing moose" ahead of the perfectly reasonable interpretation of "the best place for people to see moose". Commented May 13, 2019 at 13:35
  • 1
    Here in the U.S., hyphens aren't used to create new compound words every time one can imagine a scenario in which a phrase might be misunderstood. For example, we rely on context and common sense to make it clear that a diaper-changing station is a place where you can change your baby's diaper and not one that changes your baby's diaper for you; we do not call it a "diaper-changing-station." I see from your profile that you are from Canada, so I'm open to the possibility that hyphens are used differently there, but I must say I'm skeptical. Can you provide some in-the-wild usage examples?
    – Nanigashi
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 13:44
  • @Nanigashi They certainly can be (and should be) if the intent is to avoid misunderstanding and to express something clearly. It's a style choice. But if you don't like that use of hyphenation, then rephrase the expression so that hyphenation (of any kind) isn't required—as in the last part of my answer. Commented May 13, 2019 at 14:05

No. You would only use a hyphen if you were suggesting the capital itself is viewing moose.

According to Grammarbook.com, a hyphen is only used in instances of a compound adjective or verb modifying a noun:

"Generally, hyphenate two or more words when they come before a noun they modify and act as a single idea. This is called a compound adjective.

Examples: an off-campus apartment state-of-the-art design"

Since "moose viewing" is not modifying the word "capital" in this instance, a hyphen is not appropriate.

  • 3
    Citation needed.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 9:03
  • 1
    I see plenty of answers on this site that lack citation. Since there is no official "authority" on English grammar, I am curious to know what source you would deem credible and sufficient (no snark intended - I am seriously asking).
    – MissAJF
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 14:33
  • "Moose-viewing" is in fact modifying "capital" in this example; that's why it should be hyphenated.
    – Nanigashi
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 14:41
  • 1
    If you go on Amazon and search for baby changing table, you will see that no one is hyphenating "baby changing." It is not a adjective or a modifer, it is a compound noun. Also, the intent of the writer and the intelligence of the reader does not make it acceptable to misuse a hyphen. You could describe something as "baby-changing", if it is literally changing a baby, so why not be accurate?
    – MissAJF
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 15:01
  • 1
    All I want to know is, what are we changing the babies into? Dinosaurs?
    – MissAJF
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 15:57

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