Writer Wednesdays: Hyphenating adverbs correctly

Adverbs are a pain in the butt. Do you hyphenate or not?

Here’s some basic rules:

1. Don’t hyphenate compound adjectives — modifiers — that contain adverbs. “He was a highly acclaimed actor,” not “highly-acclaimed.” Why? Because the -ly lets readers know this is an adverb — a modifier. It has to modify acclaimed. There is no chance for confusion. You don’t need the hyphen. Rule of thumb: If you see an -ly on a modifier, don’t hyphenate.

2. Do hyphenate ambiguous adverb modifiers. “He was a well-paid professional.” Why? Because certain adverbs (well, fast, etc.) can be adverbs or adjectives, and you could separate the two modifiers — he is well, and he is paid. So when you hyphenate “well” and “paid,” readers know “well” modifies “paid” — he is paid well.

3. Do not hyphenate adverbs after the noun. “He was well paid,” not “He was well-paid.” I can kind of see the idea — sometimes we use a phrase like, “He is thick-skinned,” and the “thick-skinned” seems almost like a single word, a single idea. But generally, no hyphen is needed.

4. Do not hyphenate when something modifies the compound modifier: “She is a very well paid doctor.” Why? I don’t know. This one stumps me, but them’s the rules.

About alisaacarter

I am a writer of young adult novels, wife, mom of three, lover of animals, former magazine editor, reader of anything paranormal, and coffee fanatic.
This entry was posted in Writer Wednesdays and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s