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The number (-) one way to make someone less stressed is to appreciate them and their struggle, support them no matter what, and share your experience of dealing with a similar problem.

Should there be a hyphen in "number-one way"? CMOS says number + noun (a hundred-meter race, a 250-page book, a fifty-year project) are hyphenated before a noun, otherwise open. But here I have noun + number. Any ideas?

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No, there shouldn't be a hyphen. It is an error.

'Number one', used this way, is an adjective. Compound adjectives often do have hyphens (eg 'blue-green', or 'six-foot'). However, as you point out, both 'number' and 'one' are nouns ('one' can be an adjective, too, but as a name for the ordinal, it is a noun) and compound nouns do not always have hyphens. So, in actual fact, it is a compound noun being used as an adjective.

You'll see from a dictionary that 'number one' used as an adjective to mean the first in rank is not written with a hyphen.

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  • Thanks, @Astralbee! I haven't thought of checking out M-W on that!
    – Diane Mik
    Nov 13, 2021 at 17:45
  • More than a few of Lexico's example sentences for "number one" (as an adjective) are hyphenated ( lexico.com/definition/number_one ), although many are not, so it may be an error.
    – rjpond
    Nov 14, 2021 at 12:48

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