Commas and Adjectives

This week’s punctuation adventure is brought to you by commas and adjectives. I could have included this topic with commas and series, but there is enough difference to require its own entry. And quite frankly, this is one of those uses I don’t always get.
A comma is used to separate two or more coordinate adjectives. Simple? Yes and no. For instance:
Correct: Rae searched for the long, purple, chewed gel pen.
Correct: The dark, foreboding, rain-laden clouds crouched low on the horizon.
Incorrect: Rae searched for the blue, cotton shirt.
Correct: Rae searched for the blue cotton shirt.
Apparently, in the last sentence cotton shirt is a noun phrase and is treated like one word. All of the grammar websites I searched offered these helpful hints to determine if commas are necessary.
1) Can the word and be inserted between the adjectives and still make sense?
2) Can the order the adjectives are written be reversed without changing the meaning?
In other words, you could write that Rae searched for the long and purple and chewed gel pen or you could write the chewed and purple and long gel pen. Neither of these changes the meaning or the description of the gel pen. Ditto with the cloud sentence.
But no commas are used between gel and pen or between cotton and shirt because they are noun phrases—such as Christmas tree or fire truck. You wouldn’t write brown, Christmas tree or yellow, fire truck because both Christmas tree and fire truck act as one word and specifies which tree or truck.

About Linda Andrews

Linda Andrews lives with her husband and three children in Phoenix, Arizona. When she announced to her family that her paranormal romance was to be published, her sister pronounce: "What else would she write? She’s never been normal." All kidding aside, writing has become a surprising passion. So just how did a scientist start to write paranormal romances? What other option is there when you’re married to romantic man and live in a haunted house? If you’ve enjoyed her stories or want to share your own paranormal experience feel free to email the author at She’d love to hear from you.
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