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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Grammar and Mechanics for Writers #1--Commas between adjectives

Commas between two adjectives

Quiz

Choose the right punctuation.

1)         a. She wore tall, leather boots.
            b. She wore tall leather boots.
2)         a. I want a talented, compassionate boss.
            b. I want a talented compassionate boss.
3)         a. Jack bought a new, electric razor.
            b. Jack bought a new electric razor.

Think you've got them? Click HERE for the answers. If you answered right with no problem, move on to the next chapter. If you got one wrong, read on.

Explanation:
When you have two adjectives in a row, sometimes you put a comma between and sometimes you don't. The fancy grammar explanation has to do with whether the adjectives are coordinate or non-coordinate, and their underlying semantic categories, but you don't really need to know all that. All you need is the rule of thumb.

Rule of Thumb:
If you can REVERSE the two words or put AND between them, and it still sounds okay, you need the comma (to show that the adjectives are equal).

If you can't reverse or put AND, you shouldn't put a comma.

Example 1:
The slippery, slimy frog (good)
The slimy, slippery frog (good)
The slippery and slimy frog (good)
You need a comma between

Example 2;
The big foreign car (good)
The foreign big car (sounds weird and unnatural)
The big and foreign car (sounds a little weird)
Don't put a comma

NOTE: If you've done the tests and it's still not clear (maybe one test sounds a little awkward, but not totally wrong), it can probably go either way, depending on what you want to emphasize. Just make the call and then don't worry too much about it.

For more advanced examples, click HERE.

Practice:

For each sentence, insert or delete commas between adjectives as necessary.

1) I hated the stupid iron bars on the windows.
2) She worked twelve hours a day in a cold wet cave.
3) He sang to his laughing, gurgling baby.
4) They ate delicious, ham sandwiches in a bright airy diner.
5) The sleek, silk dress must have cost a fortune.
6) The fluffy purring kitten softened his hard unyielding heart.
7) We suffered through the long boring meeting.
8) They all understood the complicated, geometry problem.
9) No one wanted to old, beat-up, lawn chair.
10) Samantha's wide, happy smile shone like the warm summer sun.


Practice ANSWERS
1) I hated the stupid iron bars on the windows. (Correct as is)
2) She worked twelve hours a day in a cold, wet cave.
3) He sang to his laughing, gurgling baby. (Correct as is)
4) They ate delicious ham sandwiches in a bright, airy diner.
5) The sleek silk dress must have cost a fortune. (If it were "silky," you'd put a comma)
6) The fluffy, purring kitten softened his hard, unyielding heart.
7) We suffered through the long, boring meeting.
8) They all understood the complicated geometry problem.
9) No one wanted to old, beat-up lawn chair. (the comma between "old" and "beat-up" is correct, but you can't reverse "beat-up" and "lawn" (The lawn, beat-up chair), so you don't need a comma there.  See "More Advanced Examples.")
10) Samantha's wide happy smile shone like the warm, summer sun. (Correct as is)


How did you do? If you need more help, try:


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