I am writing a text in which the first sentence is a joke about my aspirations.

Since my mom didn’t let me be a rockstar[...]

But further on I say that I play guitar on my free time, so that the first sentence wasn't a complete joke, but just a little bit.

So I wrote this:

[...]I am usually playing my guitars (I was not-so-joking about the rockstar thing)[...]

I had read the "not-so-joking" construction in several books or articles (google search, of course).

So is it okay? If not, what would be the right way to express it?

  • 1
    It is possible to create those adjectives but they have to modify a noun and not be used as a verb.
    – Lambie
    Mar 22, 2019 at 14:35

2 Answers 2


If all you want is to be understood, the not-so-joking adjectival agglomeration will achieve that. Even if it seems unfamiliar to a native-speaking reader, they will easily figure out what you mean.

Nevertheless, simplicity is usually your best default goal in writing. If you want to go that route, I'd suggest the following:

I'm usually playing my guitars (I wasn't really joking about the rockstar thing).

But you can still use "not-so-joking" instead without causing confusion.


In general, to construct a hyphenated word beginning with not-so-, it would sound most natural to end it with an adjective and treat the whole construction as an adjective, or to end it with an adverb and treat the whole construction as an adverb.

An example of an adjective construction:

I picked up the not-so-hot plate.

An example of an adverb construction:

I was not-so-much joking about the rockstar thing.

You could use an ambiguous or wishy-washy adverb, such as not really, not exactly, sort of, or kind of, in place of a constructed adverb.

I was not exactly joking about the rockstar thing.

I was sort of joking about the rockstar thing.

You could also use an adverb that clearly conveys the meaning you want in this sentence, such as halfway or partially. The only in front of it further emphasizes that you were not fully joking.

I was only halfway joking about the rockstar thing.

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