Hyphens, En Dashes, Em Dashes
Q. Lately I see more and more hyphenated -ly phrases, especially in digital communication—e.g., “a hastily-made decision.” Is this just my cognitive bias inventing a trend that isn’t there, or have your editors noticed more -ly hyphens as well? I know they’re more unnecessary than incorrect, so am I being fussy to mark them for deletion if they’re used consistently and doing no real harm to reader comprehension? Thanks as always for your insight.
A. We haven’t noticed such a trend. Actually many years ago such hyphens were a lot more common than they are today. For example, in the first edition of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859), there were about fifty such hyphens. But we’ve evolved since then to recognize the -ly species as mainly adverbial in nature. You can therefore delete any mutant, atavistic hyphens that cross your path.