If you are a fan of book reviews or other forms of feedback, you may read that an author’s new novel or a teacher’s advice was “well-received.” But is it correct?
It is correct to say “well-received” when you want to show that you or someone else has received advice, feedback, or something more tangible positively or with approval. You can use this compound adjective to show that you had a good reaction to something, but its punctuation has nuances you should know about.
Keep reading to learn more about the phrase “well-received,” how to use it correctly in your writing, and when you should (and should not) use a hyphen.
What Does “Well Received” Mean?
The compound adjective “well-received” means you are receiving a good or positive reaction from others, generally regarding some form of feedback (source). For example, it may mean something is popular, like a movie being “well-received” by audiences and critics alike.
When you say something was “well received,” you are making a value judgment on something, showing that you (or the person you are providing feedback or advice to) approve. So, it has a positive connotation or association.
Remember that the connotation of a word is the emotion it carries (source). Some words have positive connotations and others have negative ones. “Well-received” brings a positive feeling or emotion in that it suggests you or someone else approves of something.
You’ll sometimes hear or see others use this phrase in emails to show that they’ve received a message. However, this isn’t the best use for the term, given that stating you received an email doesn’t necessarily mean you approve of the message’s content. In that case, it’s best to stick to an “I’ve received your message” or “Receipt confirmed.”
We’ll talk more about when you shouldn’t use the phrase and other options you can use instead later in this article, but below are a few example sentences that will better help you to understand its meaning:
- The novice author’s book was well received by critics and other well-known writers.
- His advice that she should break up with her boyfriend was well received.
- The well-received presentation to the employees included a new benefits package.
You’ll note that in the third example, we’ve used a hyphen in “well-received,” while we did not in the first two sentences. We’ll explain the punctuation and grammar in the next section.
How Do You Use “Well Received”?
You can use “well-received” as a compound adjective to show that you approve or are receiving someone’s feedback positively. If you are using the phrase before a noun, you should always hyphenate it. Conversely, if you use the term at any other point in your sentence (not directly preceding a noun), you do not need to use a hyphen.
Hyphens with compound adjectives can be tricky, but the rule is if the compound adjective comes before the word you intend to modify, you should use a hyphen so that your reader knows the two words are to be taken together as one idea (source).
Remember that a compound adjective is simply a single adjective you create by linking two (or more) words together (source). So, with “well-received,” we are linking the adverb “well” with the past participle (the -ed form of the verb “receive”) “received.”
There are various reasons to use hyphens in English. While we won’t get into them all here, just remember that with compound adjectives, you’ll always want to use a hyphen if the compound comes before the noun you intend to modify.
This is so your reader knows to take the two words together as one idea, not two separate words, which would confuse the reader. Look at this sentence for an example:
- The actor’s well-received role in the film was noticed, and he was up for an Oscar.
Here, “well-received” requires a hyphen because the word that follows, “role,” is the noun that the compound adjective “well-received” modifies. We could eliminate the adjective, but with “well-received,” we are showing that critics approved of the actor’s role and acting.
Conversely, take a look at this sentence:
- The actor’s role in the film was well received, and he was up for an Oscar.
Here, there is no noun following “well received,” and thus, there isn’t likely to be confusion for the reader as they will be able to understand critics received or reviewed the actor’s role positively.
We can use this phrase in different times and contexts, which we’ll go over next.
When Can You Use “Well Received”?
There are various times when using a phrase like “well received” fits well, including any time you want to express that your message or information was received positively by the recipient. This phrase is common in both written and oral communication.
You’ll often use this phrase when speaking about someone or something other than yourself. For example, imagine you are discussing a co-worker’s evaluation with a friend or another co-worker. In evaluative settings, we often receive constructive criticism or feedback that allows us to grow in our position.
Perhaps the feedback was positive but also included areas where the person could improve in their skill set. Rather than feeling offended by this constructive criticism, we might say that the feedback was “well received” by the employee. That means they will take that feedback and apply it to their daily routine to improve.
Here are two example sentences with this scenario in mind, one requiring a hyphen and the other without it:
- The feedback she received about better managing her time was well received.
- The well-received feedback ultimately helped her to grow and excel at her job.
Remember that in the second sentence, we need a hyphen because the noun “feedback” follows “well-received.” Since we are modifying or explaining what kind of feedback the speaker gave, we need to use a hyphen.
In the first sentence, no noun follows the phrase. Thus, we do not need to use a hyphen.
In What Context Can You Use “Well Received”?
Some contexts where “well received” works well include work and professional settings, educational settings, and other semi-formal contexts. A more specific contest is when the recipient or public receives positive information on media (such as book and movie reviews).
As mentioned above, you’ll often hear this phrase in work environments. Other settings include any time someone receives advice or feedback about their work, talent, or other performance areas.
In addition, you can use the phrase to communicate that the feedback you gave was received well by the recipient.
- Your critique of Derek’s deer chili was well received.
You can use it to show that the work someone produced was accepted positively by others or that the audience celebrated a particular movie, book, TV show, or another form of entertainment.
- The young entrepreneur’s address at the convention was well received.
If a politician gives a speech and the audience applauds, you can say that the message they delivered was well received.
- His campaign promises were well received.
If you gave advice to a friend and they accepted it, you can also say that your advice was well received. Or, if a student gets criticism and suggestions on their essay and takes that information to improve their work, you can also say that the student received the feedback well, or it was “well received.”
- Laura received her music teacher’s critiques well.
- The music teacher’s critiques were well received.
Using “Well Received” in a Full Sentence
Remember that when you use “well received” in a full sentence, there are times when you will need to use a hyphen and times when it is not necessary. If there is a noun following the phrase, always use a hyphen for purposes of clarity.
Below are a few example sentences using the phrase “well-received,” both with and without a hyphen. Note that we use a hyphen in sentences with a noun directly following the phrase (in purple).
- The teacher’s advice was well received, and the student’s grades increased.
- He published the well-received review alongside the author’s biography.
- I felt the advice I gave my friend was well received, even though it was hard to hear.
- The dancer’s well-received performance was as unique as the dancer herself.
When Not to Use “Well Received”
There are not many times when using the phrase “well received” is wrong, but you should be careful only to use it when there is a value judgment placed on the information, situation, or feedback.
Earlier, we mentioned that you might see this phrase in business communication when a person wants to confirm that they have received a message. But, again, this is not the correct use of the phrase, given that there is no value judgment necessary when communicating that you’ve received the message.
You should only use “well received” when you want to show that some message, feedback, or other information was received positively by the recipient.
You should also avoid this phrase if a person receives feedback and, rather than receiving it positively, becomes upset or angry. And similarly, if a movie or book review upsets the actor or writer, that information was not received well, and thus, you should avoid using this phrase.
What Can You Use Instead of “Well Received”?
There are synonymous words and phrases that you can use instead of “well received,” including “accepted,” “acknowledged,” or “appreciated.”
Remember that some of these words have different connotations and specific meanings that may or may not fit the context of your sentence. So be sure to double-check the implications of each before you use them interchangeably with “well received.”
- Highly regarded or highly esteemed
- In favor
- Wanted or welcomed
Note that we used hyphens for some of the compound adjectives listed above. Be sure to follow the rules we noted for using hyphens in compound adjectives when a noun follows.
Also, when you do use a hyphen, do not put any space between the words and the hyphen.
Adjective and Adverb Phrases
Both adjective and adverb phrases modify other words in your sentence. But, adjective phrases modify nouns, as when we place the compound adjective “well-received” before the noun it modifies. Conversely, adverb phrases do not modify nouns; they modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs.
The best way to differentiate between adjectives and adverbs is to identify what questions they answer. For example, adjectives typically answer questions about “what kind,” “which one,” or “how many.” Adverbs, on the other hand, describe “when,” “where,” “how,” or “to what extent.”
So, adjective phrases describe the noun in your sentence. This is why “well-received” can be an adjective phrase or compound adjective. It modifies a noun, as with the earlier examples in the article.
Here are a few more sentence examples with adjective phrases. We highlighted the adjective phrase in blue and the modified noun in purple. Note that the noun does not have to come directly after the adjective; it may be at another place in your sentence.
- The little girl’s extremely big eyes were wide as she stared at the ice cream cone.
- The cookie was exceedingly sweet to my taste.
On their own, “extremely” and “exceedingly” are adverbs. In these two sentences, however, they are modifying the adjectives “big” and “sweet,” respectively. As such, the words work together as a unit to describe the noun subject adjectivally.
Adverb phrases are similar, but remember that they modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs in your sentence. Take a look at the examples below (note that the adverb phrase is in light blue and the verb is in red):
- The little boy was walking very quickly to catch up to his friends.
- I take my daughter to get ice cream every week.
If you’d like to read more about other adverb phrases you can use in English and how to correctly use them, take a look at Most Definitely: Possible Ways to Meaningfully Use the Phrase.
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
Prepositional phrases also work as a unit to add information to a sentence adjectivally or adverbially. Read Is It Correct to Say “As Always”? or Is It Correct to Say “As Per Usual”? to learn about a couple of tricky ones.
“Well received” is a common phrase in various contexts and settings. Remember, though, that you should only use the term when a feeling, opinion, or value judgment is placed on the information or advice.
And finally, remember that if you use the phrase in your writing, always use a hyphen if a noun directly follows the term.