You’ll need to use a hyphen when a two-or three-word (or more) adjective combination comes before a noun:
A three-week vacation
A family-owned business
An out-of-the-blue surprise
If you fail to use a hyphen in some sentences, you might end up writing, “Forty odd people attended the meeting.” It may be that all 40 were weirdos, but when you add a hyphen you show that approximately 40 attendees were there (although some of them may have been nuts). You’re just not certain of the actual body count in attendance.
However, if an adverb combination comes before a noun, do not use a hyphen:
A hastily gathered petition
The lazily flowing river
Remember, not all adverbs end in -ly. The daily newspaper shows an example of an adjective that ends in -ly.
Family and homily are two -ly words that are nouns.
“Only” is the most commonly misplaced modifier. Depending where you put it in a sentence, it changes the meaning entirely.
Here is a basic sentence: I read the newspaper. Now let’s play around with “only.”
1. Only I read the newspaper. This says no one else in this house reads it; I am the only one who does.
2. I only read the newspaper. I don’t do anything else with it: I don’t recycle it, I don’t line the birdcage with it, I don’t put it in the bottom of the cat’s litter box.
3. I read only the newspaper. I don’t read books or magazines or anything else, just the newspaper.
4. I read the only newspaper. This town has just one newspaper, so that’s the one I read.
5. I read the newspaper only. This has the same meaning as #3.
The trick with all modifiers is to put them right next to the word about which you want to give more information.
This is not a sign for a puppy rescue group but merely an offering from a hot dog establishment. The problem is that as one word, “everyday” is an adjective: “Eating a hot dog is an everyday habit.” What kind of habit (noun)? An everyday (adjective) one.
However, this sign needed to make it two words. Every day you can get a hot dog for $3.50. Which day? Every day. In this sense, “every” is an adjective modifying the noun “day.”
Go and sin no more.