Hyphenation is used in English in order to clear any confusion in a phrase or sentence. However, hyphens should not be used with '-ly' adverbs or 'very', so: "The finely tuned engine is roaring."

My question is: What if instead of: (-ly adverb + past participle) formula we have a (noun+adverb) formula? For example, "That noise was ear piercingly loud!" Should we use a hyphen between 'ear' and 'piercingly'? My grammatical sense tells me so because 'noun+adverb' is a very weird sight to me.

Further, would you extend the same rule of non-hyphenation for "very" to the adverb "so"? Meaning, would you write the following phrase with a hyphen or not, "The not so/(very) silent night?"

I'm very conflicted about adding hyphens or not. A detailed answer is very much appreciated.

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    I suspect this post will be downvoted because it tries to address 3 different topics. You should have submitted separate questions. To address the first one - I would use hyphens in both 'ear-piercingly' and 'not-so-silent'. – Kate Bunting Dec 13 '18 at 9:05
  • Alright, thank you. I'll edit my post now. Do you mind clarifying your answers more? – J.Kar Dec 13 '18 at 9:06
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    I think your question is fine as it is – NibblyPig Dec 13 '18 at 9:12
  • I'm not aware of a formal rule; my instinct tells me that hyphens are needed in those phrases. – Kate Bunting Dec 13 '18 at 9:29
  • The compound premodifier-of-adjective ear-piercingly is obviously formed from the compound adjective ear-piercing, which Collins gives as mandatorily hyphenated (do not confuse with the practice ear piercing). Most dictionaries demand the hyphen in earth-shattering, while heartwarming / heart-warming is optionally solid. // The not-very-silent night is unusual, tongue-in-cheek, quirky even; the acceptability of the hyphens is a secondary issue when it comes to acceptability. I'd use these expressions (complete with hyphens) in informal registers; they're rare, so no real rules. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 10 '20 at 11:36

According to grammarbook.com

Rule 1. Generally, hyphenate two or more words when they come before a noun they modify and act as a single idea. This is called a compound adjective.

Examples: an off-campus apartment state-of-the-art design

When a compound adjective follows a noun, a hyphen is usually not necessary.

Example: The apartment is off campus.

However, some established compound adjectives are always hyphenated. Double-check with a dictionary or online.

Example: The design is state-of-the-art.

Therefore one should hyphenate it.

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