When two consecutive adjectives modify the same noun, you’re supposed to put a comma between them. I sometimes struggle to decide if that’s appropriate. After all, there are cases when the first adjective modifies the second, as in “pale blue paper.”
So I was delighted to find this advice from Jan Venolia in Write Right!:
One way to determine whether adjectives modify the same noun (a young, energetic student) is to insert the word and between the adjectives. “Young and energetic student” makes sense. … Use a comma between adjectives only if and would be a plausible alternative.
I must bookmark this post for the next time I struggle with this issue. I hope this tip helps you, too.
To learn more about when to use a comma between consecutive adjectives, read the Grammar Girl blog’s post on “Commas with Adjectives.” The post goes into the details of coordinate adjectives versus cumulative adjectives. Those are two terms I never heard of before.
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