Hyphenation Station: When Not to Use a Hyphen
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.