Tag Archives: adjectives

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.”