1. Nicole J Merchant

    Nicole J Merchant New Member

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    Commas and Descriptions

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Nicole J Merchant, May 14, 2017.

    Ah yes, I know the comma rules when it comes to adjectives... or do I?
    All right, so I know the rules of when to use commas with adjectives. Sally is a happy, active child. You would use a comma in-between because Sally is happy and active, or active and happy. Got it.
    But, here is where I am pulling my hair out. I could be just overthinking it, but it has been bugging me now for a couple of days.
    He sat on the red leather sofa. He sat on the red and leather sofa, or he sat on the leather and red sofa, doesn't sound correct, but the sofa can be red and it can be leather, so which is correct, comma or no comma?
    What about his thick black hair. Both thick and black are talking about the hair, and his hair can be thick and it can be black, but again, comma or no comma?
    Grammatically I keep leaning toward the commas, but every book I read I do not see them, so I think I am wrong.
    Yes, no? Someone please help me so I will quit ripping my hair out.
     
  2. izzybot

    izzybot Oportet Vivere Contributor

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    Seems like I remember learning that colors are exempt from the comma rule. It might be more complicated than that, but it seems right(?), and it's what I do, anyway.
     
  3. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I got more game than Parker Brothers...

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    I think (and I have nothing to back this up) that when the adjective is modifying another adjective (or could be interpreted as doing so), as in "red leather," there is no comma needed. "Thick black" is the same deal I think, whereas "happy" and "active" are independently modifying "child" and not each other. This is one of those things were I go by feel or what looks right.
     
  4. Nicole J Merchant

    Nicole J Merchant New Member

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    Thank you for the quick responds. Yes, it feels more right without the commas in both instances. I think that is the way I will go unless someone here says otherwise. :) It could be wrong, but if it is, someone will let me know, I am sure.
     
  5. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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  6. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I got more game than Parker Brothers...

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    I think you can keep going nuts with this without needing commas:

    leather couch

    red leather couch

    dark red leather couch

    old dark red leather couch

    But if it's the child example you have to keep adding commas:

    active child

    happy, active child

    short, happy, active child

    fat, short, happy, active child

    I'm not sure but those look right to me. Maybe someone will have an explanation as to why (or why not).

    A fat short happy active child just looks wrong to me... as does an old, dark, red, leather couch.
     
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  7. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    For the first string I think it depends whether the adjectives are modifying the couch or each other. Like, dark modifies red, red modifies leather, so I'd agree that those don't get commas, but I'm not seeing how "old" modifies anything but couch. So I'd write it as "old, dark red leather couch". Well, really I'd try to rewrite to avoid the string, but if I couldn't rewrite, I'd do that.

    For the hair example, I'd write it as thick, black hair b/c I don't see how something could be thick black.
     
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  8. Nicole J Merchant

    Nicole J Merchant New Member

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    Thank you! That linked helped! The little cheat at the bottom is awesome. So, since red (color) and leather (material) are of two different categories in the list, they would not need a comma, but thick (size I am guessing) and brown (color) are of the same categories, they would need a comma. At least, that is what I am taking from that.
     
  9. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I got more game than Parker Brothers...

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    Yeah, you're right. The "old" does throw a wrench in the works.
     

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