For the past several months, I have been helping a client write and edit the text for her brand new website. She has an impressive business background, and I summed it up like this: “richly-varied business experience.” I later learned that though there is nothing wrong with the words, the hyphen shouldn’t be there.
Normally, a hyphen is used when two or more words form a compound modifier: middle-class neighborhood, little-understood rule, best-selling author, five-year-old child. But now I know that adverbs ending in “ly” are an exception. The rule is in The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, at 7.87:
Adverbs ending in “ly.” 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, since ambiguity is virtually impossible.
In other words, don’t use a hyphen after an adverb that (1) ends in “ly,” if it’s (2) combined with an adjective or participle, and (3) comes before or after a noun.
Confusing? You bet! It may help to review 7.90 in The Chicago Manual of Style.
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