Northern New South Wales is bracing for more flooding today. Heavy rain and gale force winds are expected to hit the region later this morning. (ABC News)

ABC’s news script has no hyphen between gale and force. Is it okay or does it need to be changed?

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    It is a desirable courtesy to the reader, but it is not obligatory. – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 22 '13 at 0:13
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    The trend these days seems to be leaving out hyphens whenever you think you can get away with it. I like them, though. My personal rule is: does it make it easier to read? If so, I use the hyphen. – snailplane Feb 22 '13 at 0:45
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    @snailplane I blame the omnipresence of the keyboard. In writing, nothing is easier than a hyphen; in typing you must truncate the natural rhythm of your fingers, which insert a space mechanically, and reach up an extra row for the hyphen. – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 22 '13 at 0:52
  • I wouldn't normally bother with it. I can't see anyone would need the hyphen to aid legibility (it's such a common collocation you often see it written as a single word). Why include it if you don't need to? – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 22 '13 at 1:26
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    @J.R. Consistency has much to be said for it. – tchrist Feb 22 '13 at 2:41

According to most style guides, yes, you need hyphens in compound adjectives.

(Note that this only applies to adjectives that come before the word they modify: in she was old fashioned, it is not necessary, because it comes after; in an old-fashioned woman, it is.)

The general rule is to use hyphens only where they are necessary to prevent ambiguity or where they save readers the embarrassment of having to reread a passage. In practice, not all compound adjectives are problematic without hyphens; however, in this case uniformity trumps other concerns. If compound adjectives are always hyphenated, you have something to rely on as a reader. This is an advantage in itself. Secondly, it is easier for writers if they don't have to think about whether or not the compound is still readable without a hyphen.

I have more or less paraphrased Fowler's perspective here, as in Fowler's Modern English Usage; but I believe most style guides reason along similar lines.

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