Before you write “family-friendly” incorrectly, you’ll want to read this article! There are a few options that people get confused about. Some people write it as one or two words (meaning it’s either hyphenated or not), but there is only one correct form!
Family friendly vs. Family-friendly
“Family-friendly” should always be hyphenated. We write it as a compound adjective, which means we use the hyphen to connect more than one word to modify the same noun. There is never a reason to use “family friendly” without the hyphens because the meaning isn’t made clear.
According to Google Ngram Viewer, “family-friendly” is the only relevant and popular choice. The disparity in popularity between the two phrases shows that you should only stick to the hyphenated form. The unhyphenated option is not grammatically correct, and native speakers avoid it.
In The Oxford Dictionary and The Cambridge Dictionary, “family-friendly” is written as a hyphenated form. This shows that it’s the only grammatically correct (and officially recognized) form that you should include in your writing.
Neither dictionary mentions “family friendly” as two separate words. Again, this makes it quite clear that there is never a reason to include it as two words when you want it to be a noun. It simply is not a noun form, so you must avoid this in your writing.
“Family friendly” is never correct. It is only ever written as an adjective, meaning that a hyphen is always required. Unfortunately, the phrase is not recognized as a noun. While “family” and “friendly” are both correct words, the combination of them is not correct.
The only time you might see a phrase like this occur in a sentence is in a question like the following:
- Is this family friendly?
- Are your family friendly?
As you can see, these questions both mark “family friendly” together with no hyphens. However, this form is irrelevant to what we’re trying to teach you in this article. It’s an edge case, and it’s not likely you’ll come across it.
Here are some examples to help you understand what’s right and what’s wrong:
- Correct: I think we should see something a little more family-friendly this time to make sure the kids have fun.
- Incorrect: That wasn’t particularly family friendly, but I don’t think anybody minded too much.
- Correct: The family-friendly event ran on for much longer than we anticipated, but the kids loved it.
- Incorrect: I think you’ve misinterpreted what a family friendly movie should be!
“Family-friendly” is always correct when hyphenated. When written in this way, it is a compound adjective. We use this adjective form to modify a noun in the sentence, and the hyphens work as a connector between the words to show how their meanings overlap.
AP Style teaches us the most about hyphens and how they work. According to AP Stylebook rules, you should always hyphenate multiple-word adjectives, as long as they modify the same noun.
With the hyphens included, we can show how the modification works. This is beneficial to teach our readers the intended meaning of “family-friendly.”
Here are a few examples that should clear things up:
- I grew up in a very family-friendly neighborhood. I think that’s why I’m so naive today.
- Your family-friendly approach to teaching is exactly what I’ve been looking for all these years!
- I think you should go and see a family-friendly movie for once! Just because they are for children doesn’t mean they’re not still interesting.
- What’s the best family-friendly activity we can do right now? I’m so bored and want my kids to have some fun!
Is “Friendly” Capitalized In The Word “Family-Friendly”?
To finish, let’s briefly go over capitalization. Some people get confused about capitalizing hyphens, so we want to help you with it.
You do not have to capitalize either part of “family-friendly” in most cases. Neither part of the phrase is a proper noun, so the capital letters are irrelevant.
With that said, you might find yourself capitalizing both parts when writing it in a title. There is nothing wrong with capitalizing both portions of a hyphenated word, as we are allowed to treat them as separate entities (even though they’re technically the same word).
You may also like: “Family & Friends” or “Friends & Family” – What Goes First?
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.