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November 14, 2016

Hyphenation Station: When Not to Use a Hyphen

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

In the previous posts in this series (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), we discussed the general principles of hyphenation, as describe in much more detail on pages 97–100 of the Publication Manual. 

General Principle 1 (from p. 98) says “If a compound adjective can be misread, use a hyphen.” But, the reverse is also true: If the compound adjective is clear as it stands, you do not need a hyphen. This may sound like a judgment call, but the following guidelines can help you make the call in many cases.

Examples of Adverbs Ending in -ly

widely attended gatherings
relatively comfortable chair
randomly assigned participants

Adverbs ending in -ly

Adverbs ending in -ly are understood to modify the word that follows. Adding a hyphen would be redundant.

For example, in the phrase widely attended gatherings readers understand that widely modifies attended. Adding a hyphen, to write this as widely-attended gatherings, would not give the reader any additional information.

 

 

Examples of Comparative or Superlative Adjectives

much maligned argument
better understood philosophy
less anticipated production
higher scoring participants

Comparative or superlative adjectives

In a similar way, comparative or superlative adjectives modify the word that follows and do not need hyphens.

These and other examples where a hyphen should not be included can be found in Table 4.1 on page 98 of the Manual. All five general principles for hyphens can also be found in this FAQ.

 

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