I'm in the process of working on technical documentation and the phrase "currently-installed" came up. The context of the orginal sentesnece is as follows:

"You are not licensed to use the currently-installed product."

Normally I see this written as "currently installed" but I was told the other way is correct because it is a compound adjective. Which form is correct?

  • @FumbleFingers Isn't "currently" an adverb though versus "well" which is an adjective in your possible duplicate link? If that is the case then they wouldn't be the same part of speech, correct?
    – anonymous
    Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 17:56
  • I don't want to get bogged down in (to me, almost meaningless) debate over whether well is an adverb or an adjective. But as you can see from this NGram, a well-received [speech] is invariably hyphenated. Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 18:08
  • ...on the other hand, when it's [the speech] was well received it's not usually hyphenated Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 18:10
  • 2
    There are no real rules for hyphenation, which explains the multitude of practices, and the multitude of contradictory rules that different writers practice. Punctuation in English is at best a medieval attempt to suggest various stress-and-intonation patterns, and it succeeds about as well as astrology. Actually, not as well, because astrologers know they need special symbols and go right ahead and use them, instead of trying to adopt steampunk technology like English spelling and punctuation. Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 18:29
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    @rob: After checking a closely related form (and having taken on board that I don't hyphenate closely related there! :) I've deleted my first comment. There aren't enough instances to check currently installed in NGrams, but it's clear from the currently serving {officer, whatever} that those "adverbial" ones don't normally get hyphenated. Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 18:31

2 Answers 2


From Grammarbook.com's rules about hyphen use:

An often overlooked rule for hyphens: The adverb very and adverbs ending in -ly are not hyphenated.

Incorrect: the very-elegant watch

Incorrect: the finely-tuned watch

This rule applies only to adverbs. The following two sentences are correct because the -ly words are adjectives rather than adverbs:

Correct: the friendly-looking dog

Correct: a family-owned cafe

So because currently is an adverb ending in -ly, the compound adjective currently installed does not need to be hyphenated.


Linguistically, a compound is a word made up of several words. In common usage, a compound is an expression made up of several words but written with no internal spaces.

Using the second definition, if you write "currently-installed" with a hyphen rather than a space between the words "currently" and "installed", then it's a compound. There is the related question of whether there is a good reason for using the hyphen, and a good reason might be the resolution of a potential ambiguity by grouping together the words of a constituent with the hyphen. This is one of the rules given in the Wikipedia article on English compound -- look under the heading The following compound modifiers are not normally hyphenated. And, by the way, the list given there includes expressions like "currently installed" among those not normally hyphenated.

For the linguist's idea of what a compound is, we'd need some evidence that "currently installed" is a word. I can't imagine what that would be -- it doesn't seem at all like a word, to me. For one thing, it doesn't have the peculiar strong initial stress that many noun compounds have.

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