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For example: "indisputably-accurate"; "the quickly-ran event"; "the truck-driving man"; "the under-slept woman"; "the power-possessing orb".

What is the term for the words that surround the hyphen?

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closed as not a real question by MετάEd, tchrist, J.R., StoneyB, Robusto Dec 1 '12 at 21:09

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Well, one word for what you have written there is WRONG. First, you never use a hyphen with an -ly adverb to connect it to its adjective. Second, the past participle of run is run, not ran. Third, the word is underslept without any hyphen at all. –  tchrist Nov 29 '12 at 23:56
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underslept isn't a word... –  David Nov 29 '12 at 23:56
    
Nonsense! I have an OED and know how to use it: underˈslept, ppl. a. Etymology: under ¹ 10a: cf. undersleep vb. Having had insufficient sleep; suffering from or characterized by lack of sleep. §1943 Our Towns (Women’s Group on Public Welfare) ii. 23 ― It has become a commonplace to say that the town child is underslept. §1966 K. Amis Anti-Death League ɪɪɪ. 340 ― Lucy took an illustrated magazine to Churchill’s bed‐side, but she too was underslept, and in a few minutes she nodded off. §1981 P. Shea Voices & Sound of Drums ii. 14 ― A neglected, underslept appearance. –  tchrist Nov 30 '12 at 0:04
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Sorry, but it is a word: see the "Related Forms" section at the bottom. tchrist used it, and I would use it in the same way I'd use "overslept": "I overslept three hours this morning, so I was late to work" and "I underslept three hours this morning, so I'm wasted at the moment". –  user21497 Nov 30 '12 at 0:04
    
@tchrist: "The vagrant was wakened by the traffic on the underslept highway bridge." –  Mitch Nov 30 '12 at 18:46

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

In the first two cases:

"indisputably-accurate" and "the quickly-ran event"

the only word is "incorrect". Never use a hyphen between an adverb of manner ending in /-ly/ and the word that follows. You can find that rule in any manual that explains how to use hyphens.

In the next two cases:

"the truck-driving man" and "the power-possessing orb"

the word is "hyphenated".

In the final case:

"the under-slept woman"

the word is "What does this mean?" Should this be "sleep-deprived"?

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I see you’ve deftly avoided the only-begotten son problem. :) –  tchrist Nov 30 '12 at 0:06
    
I was trying to think off the top of my head. Didn't come out right as I can see now. –  David Nov 30 '12 at 0:11
    
@tchrist: That may be one of those petrified expressions that cannot be changed because it's grandfathered in. Is it used anywhere other than Biblical commentary? –  user21497 Nov 30 '12 at 0:14
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@tchrist That hyphen is a vulgar modern intrusion - see here –  StoneyB Nov 30 '12 at 0:19

The examples in which the hyphen is used appropriately are called compound adjectives (or compound modifiers). The hyphenated phrase serves to describe a noun. As everyone else has pointed out, don't use hyphens with -ly adverbs.

This term does not describe all hyphenated phrases, however. Test-drive is a transitive verb; pattern-seeking is a gerund.

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I found this at http://grammar.about.com/od/c/g/compadjterm.htm and thought it might be germane to the topic.

"Interestingly, hyphenation is also used creatively to indicate that an idea that would normally be expressed by a phrase is being treated as a single word for communicative purposes because it has crystallised in the writer's mind into a firm, single concept. Thus, for example, the expression simple to serve is normally a phrase, just like easy to control. But it can also be used as a hyphenated word as in simple-to-serve recipe dishes (M&S Magazine 1992: 9). . . .

"But for creative hyphenation you are unlikely to find anything more striking than this: [2.3] On Pitcairn there is little evidence of the what-we-have-we-hold, no-surrender, the Queen's-picture-in-every-room sort of attitude. (Simon Winchester in The Guardian magazine, 12 June 1993: 27; italic added to highlight the compounds)" (Francis Katamba, English Words: Structure, History, Usage, 2nd ed. Routledge, 2005)

"Adverbs that do not end in -ly may take the hyphen to form a compound adjective. The reason is obvious. A fast-moving script suggests a roller coaster plot while a fast moving script might have pace but it is emotionally charged (i.e., emotionally moving) at the same time." (Bruce Grundy, So You Want to be a Journalist? Cambridge University Press, 2007) Also Known As: phrasal adjective

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