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ADJECTIVES AND ADVERBS, PUNCTUATION OF

When two or more modifiers precede a noun, a comma, no punctuation, or a hyphen may be appropriate.
1. Comma:
Use a comma when two or more modifiers before a noun can trade positions with relative ease or when you can easily insert and between the adjectives:
    the cheerful, busy children
the busy, cheerful children
  When one of the modifiers explains, amplifies, or partly contradicts an earlier modifier, use commas: my samloh, or pedicab, operator. Do not put a comma after the final modifier simply because it has a modifier itself: men of that dim, often frigid past.
2. No Punctuation:
Use no punctuation when two or more modifiers before a noun are fixed in their relative positions and all modify the noun directly: traditional political institutions; a severe tropical storm. When in doubt, omit the comma.
3. Hyphen:
Use a hyphen when two or more modifiers link to form a single concept that precedes a noun. If one of the modifiers is itself a compound, an en dash may be used instead of a hyphen.
    a calf-size dog
a two-for-one bargain
iron-and-steel mill
a two-act comedy
iron- and steelworks
Civil War-era houses
low- to high-income housing
forest- and bush-loving antelope
nuclear-armed and nuclear-powered ships
but not
            nuclear-armed and -powered ships
Punctuation can influence the meaning:
            red, white, and blue flags (solid-colored flags), red-white-and-blue flags (tricolors)

Do not hyphenate compound color modifiers unless hyphenated in Webster's or both elements are colors of equal value:
            blue-black sky, gray-green eyes, but bluish black sky, lemon yellow dress, jade green lake, cobalt blue dish

To avoid ambiguity, note:
            light-blue suit (color), light blue suit (weight)

Adverbs that end in -ly are not hyphenated:
            faintly heard call.

A three-word modifier, the first of which is an adverb ending in -ly, need not be hyphenated unless ambiguity results:
            freshly laid out linen, newly set aside parklands

There are a number of adverbs that look like adjectives because they do not end in -ly. Of these, compounds with dead, long, near, and well are generally hyphenated before a noun:
            dead-tired feet, long-established use, near-realized hopes, well-dressed man

Unless the meaning is ambiguous or a compound is hyphenated in Webster's, do not hyphenate compounds with almost, already, best, early, ever, last, late, less, more, most, much, never, not, now, once, only, seldom, sometimes, still, very, yet.

See even. Consult Webster's, especially for compounds with over and under.

Do not hyphenate:
a) a compound modifier before a noun when the compound itself carries a modifier or after a noun unless subject to misreading or hyphenated in Webster's as an adjective:
    a well-built house
a house well built
a very well built house
the house was well built
b) a compound proper noun used as an adjective. Hyphenate, however, a prefix before a capital letter, or when hyphenated in Webster's:
    New York skyline, but New York-born man or New York–born man (en dash)
South American countries
Latin American ways (NGS preference)
Old English customs
pre-Columbian vase
un-Burgundian ways
c) foreign terms:
            bona fide friends, a de facto peace, per capita income, status quo policy, but laissez-faire policy
d) chemical terms used as compound adjectives except if ambiguous or when used with the mass number:
            carbon dioxide test, but carbon-14 dating; iron-oxide red; strontium-90, strontium-90 fallout
e) widely used compound nouns appearing in Webster's when they are used as adjectives, such as bald eagle, foreign exchange, income tax, and real estate, except where misreading could result and a hyphen helps readability
f) a two-word modifier when the second word is a possessive:
            history teacher's papers, a planning council's decision
g) ordinals with comparatives or superlatives:
            second largest producer, third longest tunnel, first ever study, but first-grade potatoes, second-class citizens
h) compound modifiers with comparatives or superlatives unless subject to misreading:
            more favorable weather, earliest known city, lesser known novel, best loved story
but    best-selling novels, worst-case scenario