Wednesday, 25 February 2009

More Comma Hunting

This time of a different sort...

Coordinate adjectives.

I've used these perhaps a little too much, maybe as much as one or two per chapter and I didn’t even know it was a style crime.

We all know that in some circumstances we should use a comma to separate a pair of adjectives that describe the same noun.

The Owl defines the rule quite clearly and there is even a test to make sure they are coordinate and not cumulative adjectives:

6. Use commas to separate two or more coordinate adjectives that describe the same noun. Be sure never to add an extra comma between the final adjective and the noun itself or to use commas with non-coordinate adjectives.

They’ve been bothering me since I read Allen Guthrie's Infamous Writing Tips on the Absolute Write Water Cooler Forums.

Here’s a snippet:

5: Pairs of adjectives are exponentially worse than single adjectives. The ‘big, old’ man walked slowly towards the ‘tall, beautiful’ girl. When I read a sentence like that, I’m hoping he dies before he arrives at his destination. Mind you, that’s probably a cue for a ‘noisy, white’ ambulance to arrive. Wailingly, perhaps!

Here's Allen Guthrie's tip sheet.

How do you feel about them? Is it OK to use them sparingly or should coordinate adjectives be banned?


  1. Hi,

    How are you?

    i'm sorry to bother you, but I've recently started up a community forum for writers called the The Writer's Chronicle(mainly for those who blog) where we can meet and discuss all that is writing with other 'online' writers. Also with the recent addition of some published author members we have decided to set up a section to support published writers and help them promote themselves and their books - as we all know how hard it is to get published and how its even harder to get a large readership!

    I know this email is out of the blue, but i was hoping that you might drop in and take a look around and perhaps join if your interested?

    I'd greatly appreciate it,


    Emily Cross

    here is the link:

  2. I think coordinate adjectives are perhaps more appropriate in children's books than anywhere else. They look a bit clumsy most of the time.

  3. I agree I'll running the little blighters down when I edit, but I must admit they've been sticking out like sore thumbs in some the books I've been reading lately.


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