The Chicago Manual of Style doesn’t have a lot of simple formulas or rules of thumb. But here is one about hyphenation: “compounds formed by an adverb ending in ly plus an adjective or participle (such as largely irrelevant or smartly dressed) are not hyphenated either before or after a noun” (7.82).
Ok, maybe that doesn’t sound so simple. It’s easy to get bogged down in keeping adverbs, adjectives, and participles straight. It’s much clearer in examples. Here are a few, all expressing opinions that make cool people hate me.
Wrong: Wes Anderson’s movies are excessively-stylized.
Right: Wes Anderson’s movies are excessively stylized.
Wrong: The sweetly-sung tones of the Eagles can never be displeasing.
Right: The sweetly sung tones of the Eagles can never be displeasing.
Wrong: Incoherently-written tomes, such as Infinite Jest, are off-putting to the reader.
Right: Incoherently written tomes, such as Infinite Jest, are off-putting* to the reader.
Wrong: Your nastily-worded invective against people who commute in cars (rather than on bikes) suggests that you are not as morally-superior as you think you are.
Right: Your nastily worded invective against people who commute in cars (rather than on bikes) suggests that you are not as morally superior as you think you are.
That’s right, people. Correct is better than cool.
Now where did I stash my boot-cut jeans again? They’re bound to come back in fashion some day…
*Nerds interested in such things should note that “off-putting” is hyphenated in Merriam Webster’s, and therefore in my blog.