1. Forgotten_Memories
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    Forgotten_Memories Active Member

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    Descriptive listing

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Forgotten_Memories, Nov 19, 2009.

    Whenever I list adjectives, I'm not sure how to go about placing commas (and I am a comma freak usually). This is particular when I am describing hair, clothing, and eyes.

    For example:

    "The sunlight made his short, cropped, blond hair seem almost white and his brown eyes amber."

    ^

    Does this sound correct? Somehow, it doesn't flow too nicely in my mind when I read it.
     
  2. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Aside from both "short" and "cropped" meaning more or less the same thing (and as such both being unnecessary), your phrase reads right. Where your adjectives can be interchanged in terms of order freely without altering the sentence's sense they are separated with a comma.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yup!... g's nailed it...
     
  4. Mister Micawber
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    Mister Micawber Member

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    As a general comment, such lists of adjectives are infelicitous. It slows the reading for no good reason. I'd throw them in singly along the way, as e.g. the hair length becomes important to the tale. As a reader, I don't like overly physically-delineated characters anyway; I like to let my imagination fill them out.
     
  5. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    You've already got your answer, but when you see long lists of adjectives in your writing like this, you should see if there is another way to write it. Because as someone already said, it slows the reader down.

    The sun white-washed his blond hair and lightned his eyes to amber.

    In the sun, his blond hair looked white and his eyes amber.

    etc.

    You can describe the shape of his hair in a new sentence.
     
  6. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Arch's first sentence is a great example.

    This is also a good point.
    If you have three descriptive adjectives in a row, you're probably cramming too much information into one sentence. Try going through your work to find those adjective groups, and rephrase everything to either eliminate the adjectives (ideal) or spread them around. I've been in the same boat before and that exercise helped me a lot.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Or you could drop some of the adjectives by making other adjustments:

    The sunlight made his blond buzz cut seem white and his eyes amber.

    If his eyes seem amber in the sunlight, it's obvious what color they are in diffuse lighting. A better noun choice, like substituting buzz cut for hair, hair can eliminate the need for one or more adjectives.

    It's not a strategy you can always apply, but it's worthwhile to consider it before other fixes, because it can make your writing cleaner and more concise.
     
  8. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    And by that same reasoning, you could remove "blond," which would effectively get rid of every adjective in that little cluster and still say everything he wanted to.:)
     
  9. marcusl
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    marcusl Member

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    Sure, everyone has made valid comments. But let's assume I insist that the sentence is written with those adjectives. Is Forgotten_Memories's sentence structured correctly? I would actually like to know, too. Thanks.
     
  10. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I see nothing wrong with it grammatically, but if I were to go with that structure, I would lose a lot of unnecessary words.

    the sunlight made his cropped hair seem white and his eyes amber.

    short and cropped is pretty much the same thing. If his hair seemed almost white, then it seemed white, and if it seemed white then we know it is blond. If his eyes seemed amber then we know they are brown.
     
  11. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    In response to Marcusl and the original poster:

    In fact, the best and most grammatically accurate fashion to write this would be as so:

    "The sunlight made his short, cropped blond hair seem almost white, and his brown eyes amber."

    According to my English book (which I am recalling from memory) if the words are closely related (The example they gave: Red brick building) then you can dispense the commas.

    I added the comma after 'white' because you are no longer describing his hair, but his eyes, and I felt that the word 'and' was not quite adequate to show the slight change.
     

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