?

What's your approach?

  1. Consistently include them

    4 vote(s)
    50.0%
  2. Consistently omit them

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. Include or omit depending on the sentence in question

    2 vote(s)
    25.0%
  4. Something else

    2 vote(s)
    25.0%
  1. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    Punctuation Your use of commas with coordinate adjectives

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Sifunkle, Sep 9, 2015.

    Comma use seems to be an area with some creative wiggle room, so I thought I'd ask around to see what others do. Do you always adhere to the rule of putting a comma between coordinate adjectives or do you skip them? Does it depend on the sentence, or do you favour consistency throughout a piece?

    I lean towards omission. I was taught early on to include them, but I find they confuse the sentence structure more often than not (e.g. on a quick read-through, one initially assumes they're separating one clause from another). However, my general preference is to use commas more sparsely than many do.

    For those who are like I was half an hour ago, and have no idea what coordinate adjectives are:
    Coordinate adjectives are consecutive adjectives that both describe the subsequent noun, e.g. 'trendy, young thing'. You can tell if they're coordinate by whether you can reverse the order and still make sense of the phrase ('young, trendy thing'), or by whether you can replace the comma with the word and ('trendy and young thing').

    They stand in contrast to cumulative adjectives, where the first adjective modifies the second adjective rather than the subsequent term, e.g. 'dark blue blanket'.

    From what I gather, the rule is that coordinate adjectives need a comma in between, while cumulative adjectives should not have one.
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Consecutive adjectives, I always put a comma between them. Are there consecutive adjectives that are not coordinate adjectives (the term is new to me)?
     
  3. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I just write. It usually turns out ok.
     
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  4. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some people tell me to add more, some people tell me to remove mine and replace them with a full stop. I replied just get on the watch list and see what other people say.
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I vote for avoiding multiple adjectives whenever possible.
     
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  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    As an English teacher, I would have said to put the comma in. As a creative writer, however, I sometimes leave it out. Sometimes the comma slows things down too much.

    The dialogue sentence below reads much differently with and without the commas.

    "What he needs, right now, is a short, sharp shock."

    "What he needs right now is a short sharp shock."

    I tend to do whatever seems best for the context. I've had people yank me up on it, but others don't seem to mind. Most of the time I'll use the comma, but not always.

    It's not a deal-breaking issue for me, though. If I were going for traditional publishing and my publisher asked for the comma, I'd put it in.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2015
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  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Depends entirely on the sentence flow I want.
     
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  8. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    Thanks for the responses all - interesting. I suppose as with all things in writing, it's about whatever works best. Punctuation strikes me as something I'd err towards consistency with though. But like @jannert , I sure wouldn't let it stand between me and publication :)

    Yours is a good point @ChickenFreak . Consecutive descriptors of any type often come off a bit purple. I think I mostly use them in stock phrases (like 'trendy, young things' - sounds weird to me if I make it 'young, trendy things', so it's probably one I've come to accept through repetition). But maybe I should be avoiding those anyway.

    There are also cumulative adjectives, as per the spoiler tag in the OP.
     
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  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think it's okay to put in as many adjectives as you want when you're writing your first draft. Let your writing imagination flow and don't try too hard to be 'correct.' Whatever occurs to you, put it in. However, once the project has cooled a bit, and you go back for the editing, that's when to nail the excess. The accepted wisdom is to pick the one adjective from the pile that is the most significant, when it comes to the impression you're trying to convey. Use that one and ditch the others. It is okay, once in a while, to use more than one, but try to keep it to a minimum. And don't use adjectives at all unless they really do add to the vision you're creating. Do you really need to say: "The big, hot, yellow sun was now shining in the clear, blue, cloudless sky." Aargh.
     
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  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree. When I use more than one because they're both important, I may also reflect that importance by rephrasing to give each one more "room". And, or, also, but, a separate sentence, converting adjective into verb, something.

    (round, red) His face was round. Round and red.
    (exhausted, happy) He looked exhausted, but I'd never seen him so happy.
    (blue, shiny) Her dress was blue, and it shone under the lights as if it had been lacquered.
     
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  11. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Though style affects how such things are written, keep in mind that a comma serves a very specific function in this case. For example, consider "the bright, blue planet" vs. "the bright blue planet." In the former case, both adjectives are modifying "planet" (suggesting a blue planet that is also radiating lots of light), whereas in the latter case, "bright" is modifying "blue" and "planet" is being modified by "bright blue" (suggesting that the planet is a bright shade of blue). The comma can make all the difference in such cases.

    Granted, in a lot of cases, the context makes it clear, so you might be able to get away with leaving a comma out and still maintain clarity. But it's still important to keep the grammatical rule for this in mind.
     
  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Good point.
     
  13. GingerCoffee
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    Doesn't "the bright blue planet" need a hyphen: "the bright-blue planet"? Bright modifies blue, not planet in that case.

    But I do see that it is an example where a comma may not be needed.
     
  14. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    A quick peruse through my MS evinces that I am rather haphazard as regards my application of the comma in question. I can feel a difference between when I do and don't use it, but I can't give a good syntactic or orthographic reason why in my own examples. o_O Will need to think on this further....
     
  15. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I over-use commas. The other day I was reading some crap I'd written years ago, and some of the places I'd stuck commas left me flabbergasted.

     
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  16. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Every pause in speech doeth a comma take? :whistle: (Easily in the top 5 of misspoken "rules".)
     
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  17. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    This describes me as well. As I said above, it depends on whatever feel or flow I want for a particular sentence. I don't see any reason to use it consistently within a manuscript anymore than a song has to use the same tempo consistently throughout.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2015
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  18. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I really did use to use commas in the way Rimmer does in that Red Dwarf clip I posted :meh:

    Used... use... what is the past tense of use?
     
  19. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    There's no hyphen in this case because I would argue that "bright blue" isn't functioning as a compound adjective. Although now that I think about it, you're making me second guess myself. Thinking aloud here, consider "heavy metal detector" vs. "heavy-metal detector." Based on my explanation above, "heavy" is modifying "metal" in the former case, though most people would read it as the metal detector itself being heavy. So I'll have to think about this some more and try to come up with a better explanation (or point out a reference).
     
  20. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Is the planet bright-blue, or is it bright and blue? Without the hyphen, bright could modify either blue or planet, IMO.
     
  21. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Stupid English language. Why does it have to be so weird?
     
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  22. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    And why do we have to deal with it when the whole hyphen/compound word thing is technically in a state of flux. All the other Germanic languages have very clear, rigid rules about this sort of thing, but noooOOOoooo, English had to go and get all latinate during its affair with Norman French and now everything is all wishy-washy. :)
     
  23. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    That's wishy washy to you. :D
     
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  24. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Silent letters, anyone??
     
  25. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    know weigh
     
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