Remarkably low condensation temperature


Remarkably-low condensation temperature?

The focus of remarkable is that it is such a low temperature. We are having an office disagreement and any help is much appreciated.


The wikipedia entry backs up what the style guide I use says:

In the 19th century, it was common to hyphenate adverb–adjective modifiers with the adverb ending in -ly. However, this has become rare. For example, wholly owned subsidiary and quickly moving vehicle are unambiguous, because the adverbs clearly modify the adjectives: "quickly" cannot modify "vehicle". However, if an adverb can also function as an adjective, then a hyphen may be or should be used for clarity, depending on the style guide.

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    Yes, so in e.g. "quick-drying cement" it would be more common to put the hyphen. – Neil Coffey Apr 18 '12 at 17:19
  • And you could possibly argue that the hyphen actually represents a rhythmic difference. – Neil Coffey Apr 18 '12 at 17:20
  • Any rhythm distinctions in English exist mostly in the mind of the reader: The reason we say them aloud differently isn't because it's a rule, it's because that's how people speak to be understood. – user20276 Apr 18 '12 at 17:27
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    Nathan -- don't quite know what you mean by rhythm distinctions being "in the mind of the reader". There are very phonetically real distinctions and these distinctions can potentially be represented in writing. – Neil Coffey Apr 20 '12 at 18:19
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    Um... "supposed" to according to who? There's no intrinsic law of nature determining what people must use a hyphen to represent. And if whatever phenomenon usually represented by a hyphen also happens to be correlated with a rhythmic difference, are you suggesting you stick your fingers in your ears and pretend it doesn't...? In sum, I don't quite understand your objection. – Neil Coffey Apr 20 '12 at 23:14

No hyphen is needed. It is fine as it is.

However, such a sentence structure/ construction is not for technical writing:

A condensation temperature that is remarkably low...

That will be easier on the reader.

[Not that you will not come across complicated/ ambiguous writing in techLit. Just avoid it.]

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    I don't agree such constructions are "not for technical writing". For example, I'd have thought practically all instances of "a remarkably low toxicity" would be in a "technical" context, and there are certainly plenty of them. On the other hand, according to Google Books, no-one has ever committed "toxicity that is remarkably low" to print. – FumbleFingers Apr 18 '12 at 17:31
  • Toxicity is one word; condensation temperature is two. Too many modifiers in all. Which is why we restructure. And it is not low-condensation. – Kris Apr 18 '12 at 18:32
  • +1 for the technical writing context, which I am not as familiar with. – user20276 Apr 18 '12 at 18:39

The Associated Press Stylebook says this about hyphens with compound modifiers:

When a compound modifier — two or more words that express a single concept — precedes a noun, use hyphens to link all the words in the compound except the adverb very and all adverbs that end in -ly. ... The principle of using a hyphen to avoid confusion explains why no hyphen is required with very and -ly words. Readers can expect them to modify the word that follows.

Even if you were not to agree with the AP style in this case, ask yourself what else (besides low) the word remarkably would modify. If there is no ambiguity, the hyphen is not needed.

  • Have you considered low-condensation? (which is a possible implication in the absense of the hyphen). Low condensation may not be plausible or make practical sense, but that is besides the point. – Kris Apr 18 '12 at 18:46
  • @Kris, I am not sure I understand your point. What would "low-condensation" mean? – JLG Apr 19 '12 at 2:53

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