don’t hyphenate adverbs

I’m fascinated by the story of a Brooklyn coffee shop that was shut down this week when seven employees quit in protest of a hostile work environment. But while reading some of the local blog coverage, I found this common error on Gawker:

Who will step up to fill the vacuum in Brooklyn’s locally-roasted coffee mafia wars, now? (coffia? cafia?)

(Emphasis mine.) I understand the temptation to hyphenate here, since that’s usually the rule when you use two or more words together as an adjective (i.e. hair-raising scene, diet-friendly desserts). But the exception is adverbs that end in “ly.” The sentence above should read “Who will step up to fill the vacuum in Brooklyn’s locally roasted coffee mafia?”

It’s kind of inexplicable that this exception doesn’t apply to all adverbs. Ones that don’t end in “ly” are hyphenated just as adjectives are (i.e. “much-deserved honor,” “well-dressed woman” ). But luckily it’s a dead-easy rule to memorize. Don’t ask why — just don’t hyphenate words that end in “ly.”

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2 responses to “don’t hyphenate adverbs

  1. I guess so, but I do wish there was some sort of reason. It just seems arbitrary, the kind of rule that discourages people from bothering to learn proper punctuation.

  2. Wow. In “the biz,” this is what we refer to as a “f*uck you” edit; an overwrought edit that doesn’t need to be there in the first place. A “locally roasted coffee mafia” is a coffee mafia that has been roasted locally. A “locally-roasted coffee mafia” is a mafia that deals in the trade of coffee that has been roasted locally. The hyphen needs to be there for clarity’s sake. It’s a compound adjective modifying “coffee,” not “mafia.”

    Please start asking why before you make edits.

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