hyphens: compounds beginning with adverbs

Follow the guidelines below in deciding whether to hyphenate different types of compounds beginning with adverbs.


Do not hyphenate compounds consisting of an adverb or adverbial phrase followed by an adjective, unless there is a danger of misreading:

  • equally productive means
  • a reasonably tall tree
  • an all too complacent attitude


Adverb-plus-participle compounds are among the most troublesome. The use of the hyphen depends in part on the type of adjective and in part on its location.

Adverbs ending in “ly”

Do not hyphenate adverb-plus-participle compounds in which the adverb ends in “ly”:

  • richly embroidered
  • fully employed

Other adverbs

If the adverb does not end in “ly,” hyphenate the adverb-plus-participle compound when it comes before the noun:

  • ever-changing tides
  • far-reaching events
  • ill-educated person
  • well-fed cattle

Do not hyphenate when the compound follows the noun or pronoun and contains a past participle:

  • She is well known.
  • Arichat, located on Isle Madame, was considered a strategic site because its natural harbour was deep and well protected.
  • This applicant is ill suited for the job.

When the compound follows the noun or pronoun and contains a present participle, do not hyphenate if the participle has a verbal function, but hyphenate if it is adjectival in nature:

  • The narrative is fast-moving. (adjectival)


  • The narrative is fast moving toward a climax. (verbal)

Copyright notice for Writing Tips Plus

© His Majesty the King in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Public Services and Procurement
A tool created and made available online by the Translation Bureau, Public Services and Procurement Canada

Search by related themes

Want to learn more about a theme discussed on this page? Click on a link below to see all the pages on the Language Portal of Canada that relate to the theme you selected. The search results will be displayed in Language Navigator.