Tag Archives: hyphens

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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best seller, bestseller or best-seller?

I have to give the Garnet Hill catalog props — it has remarkable well-written descriptions (though I’m not sure every item of clothing is as “exceptional” as it claims). But I did find one thing to pick on. Despite the fact that it’s now a well-known term, “best seller” remains two words, not one. So the noun is “best seller,” and accordingly the adjective is hyphenated as “best-selling.” Webster’s also offers that that state of being a best seller is “best-sellerdom” but that looks and sounds a bit convoluted to me. I’d probably rephrase a sentence rather than use it.

quick tip: multi

Did you know that when you add the prefix “multi” to a word, you don’t need to use a hyphen? I learned this back in my Country Weekly days, when we were forever reporting on albums going multiplatinum. (Back in the day when people actually bought CDs.)

The one exception: If you want to add multi to a word that begins with “i” you need the hyphen, e.g. multi-instrumentalist.