View Full Version : Happily ever after--hyphenated?

03-20-2007, 05:35 AM
If I were to use "happily ever after" as a noun (I'm searching for my happily ever after), should it be hyphenated? My instinct is that it should be, but I want to check and make sure.


03-20-2007, 05:53 AM
Hmmm. Good question. It certainly could be. It definitely would be if you were to say: "My happily-ever-after life." Perhaps it depends on context. I'll wait and see what some of the greater gurus say.

Silver King
03-20-2007, 06:05 AM
Not a guru here, but I think it can go either way:

My happily-ever-after man.

My happily ever after man.

I can't tell if one reads better than the other. They both look fine to me.

03-20-2007, 06:06 AM
I would either hyphenate it, capitalize it, or put it in quotes. Something to show that it's not really a noun, but you're making it one in this case. Really, just a style choice, I think.

03-20-2007, 07:34 AM
I don't know if this is a rule, but I would recommend hyphenating, to make it clear what the relationship between the words is. Quotation marks could work too, but it gives it a slightly different spin.

03-20-2007, 04:48 PM
if i understand it right, "ly" words do not get hyphenated. e.g., you wouldn't write, "barely-dressed man." instead, it would be "barely dressed man." i imagine the same would apply to "happily ever after," unless you're using that phrase itself as a modifier for something else. e.g., "happily-ever-after ending" (or something like that).

but to make things simpler, i'd probably just say something like, "happily ever after" ending (put the phrase in quotes).

03-20-2007, 05:23 PM
Rhonda, I can't agree. You hyphenate a compound adjective any time it appears before its noun, no matter what parts of speech it's made of.

Or at least I do. But remember, I'm stodgy when it comes to English. If you care to dispute it, please shout directly into the ear trumpet. :tongue

I agree with you on the other part, though. When you're using a phrase as a single noun concept, I don't know of a rule that applies except the common-sense one that says not to confuse the reader. You could hyphenate, capitalize, or put it in quotes; any of those makes its meaning clear.

Maryn, who's never seen an ear trumpet

03-20-2007, 06:02 PM
Place it in quotes. Hyphens make no sense here, and this is one of the things quotation marks were designed to do.

03-20-2007, 08:47 PM
LOL Maryn...it's all good...I don't profess to be a grammar goddess, so I'm always happy to continue my learning and share what I know. :D

03-20-2007, 08:58 PM
I would hyphenate it, whether it's a noun or adjective. Or quote it. "Happily ever after" is one single unit.

BTW, it's:

"I'm barely dressed." (duh, I am bare!)

"I'm a barely-dressed man."

03-20-2007, 09:03 PM
"I'm barely dressed." (duh, I am bare!)

"I'm a barely-dressed man."
You are? Where's the pic? You look like a big ol' pig to me.

03-20-2007, 09:05 PM
Pig, man, what's the difference?

03-20-2007, 09:41 PM
Actually, I disagree about the dash use in "barely-dressed man." It's not grammatically correct to use a dash after an -ly word, even if it's a compound word.

According to Dartmouth's website:

"Do not use hyphens in compounds in which the first word (typically an adverb) ends in -ly (except for family).

Oaks are rapidly growing trees.
This is a fairly open discussion."

Here's the website I used to reference it:

The best way to avoid it? You can just use quotes. LOL - that would probably work nicely. :D



03-21-2007, 11:34 AM
It's not grammatically correct (Rhonda's right) to hyphenate -ly words. Usually. There are a few instances. But in this case, happily ever after isn't being used to modify anything. Sharp-dressed man, for example, is hyphenated because sharp-dressed, as a whole, modifies man.

In my example for happily ever after, though, it's not being used as a modifier. It's being used as a noun. "I'm searching for my happily ever after." Or "It's all about the happily ever after." The person isn't searching for her happily, her ever, or her after. She's searching for them as a whole (if that makes sense). That's why I'm confused!

Thanks for all your responses, though. Grammar is so much fun (and no, I'm not being facetious).

03-24-2007, 06:16 AM
You are attempting to establish a precedent, as I see it, since all other instances of "happily ever after" are adverbial and, in fact, it has become a cliché in the adverb form. If you choose to use it as a noun, I would recommend you also choose how to set it off, if at all. It is, after all, your own invention so dress it up as you please.