Many of our blog article topics are inspired by common mistakes we see in documents. Today's post is all about adverbs and participles.
Do not hyphenate an adverb-participle* combination if the adverb ends in ly.
- a poorly constructed water ski
- a highly valued employee
- a clearly defined set of terms
- a wholly owned corporation
- a newly formed division
- an extremely tiring trip
- a friendly-sounding voice
- a motherly-looking woman
Other adverb-participle compounds are hyphenated before the noun. When these same combinations occur in the predicate, drop the hyphen if the participle is part of the verb.
- a well-known consultant, but This consultant is well known.
- much-needed reforms, but These reforms were much needed.
- the above-mentioned facts, but These facts were mentioned above.
However, if the participle does not become part of the verb and continues to function with the adverb as a one-thought modifier in the predicate, retain the hyphen.
- a well-behaved child, and The child is well-behaved.
- a clear-cut position, and The position was clear-cut.
- a well-intentioned proposal, and The proposal was well-intentioned.
A hyphenated adverb-participle combination can retain the hyphen even when the adverb is in the comparative or superlative.
- a better-known brand
- the hardest-working manager
- the best-behaved child
- a faster-moving water skier
A few words in this category are now written solid.
- -going: ongoing, outgoing, thoroughgoing
- far-: farseeing, farsighted, but far-fetched, far-flung, far-reaching
- free-: freehanded, freehearted, freestanding, but free-floating, free-spoken, free-swinging
- wide-: widespread, but wide-eyed, wide-ranging, wide-spreading
Source: Gregg Reference Manual
*Wondering what a participle is? It's simply a verb form that has the function of an adjective (describes a noun) and at the same time shows such verbal features as tense (-ed and -ing) and voice and capacity to take an object.