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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The CMS says use commas to seperate coordinate adjectives - that is two or more adjective each of which modifies the noun itself:
 
Rocco had said that it was going to be a long, hot summer.

Then the SMS says: If the first adjective modifies the idea expressed by the combination of the second adjective and the noun, no comma should be used:

Blanche stood beside a tall blue spruce.

Frankly, I'm not seeing the difference in the two examples. Can anyone explain?

Thanks,

Randy
 

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A "blue spruce" is a type of tree.  The blue isn't so much an adjective, as it is part of the noun.  Therefore the comma isn't necessary.  Putting a comma there would be like writing "beside a tall, crepe myrtle."
 

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I'm guessing that "blue spruce" is a type of spruce tree, and not the actual color.  Check that - I just hit up wikipedia and yes, it's a type of spruce.

Hope that helps :)
 

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Randy Kadish said:
Then the SMS says: If the first adjective modifies the idea expressed by the combination of the second adjective and the noun, no comma should be used:

Blanche stood beside a tall blue spruce.

Frankly, I'm not seeing the difference in the two examples. Can anyone explain?
I mean, in that case, blue spruce is the noun, right? It's a species of tree. Just like bluegrass is a kind of grass.
 

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It's the sinister coordinate adjective! You can read about it in Chicago (16th ed) at section 6.33.

The entry is as follows:

6.33 Commas with coordinate adjectives

As a general rule, when a noun is preceded by two or more adjectives that could, without affecting the meaning, be joined by and, the adjectives are normally separated by commas. Such adjectives, which are called coordinate adjectives, can also usually be reversed in order and still make sense. If, on the other hand, the adjectives are not coordinate-that is, if one or more of the adjectives is essential to (i.e., forms a unit with) the noun being modified-no commas are used.

Shelly had proved a faithful, sincere friend. (Shelly's friendship has proved faithful and sincere.)
It is going to be a long, hot, exhausting summer. (The summer is going to be long and hot and exhausting.)
She has a young, good-looking friend. (Her friend is young and good-looking.)

but

She has many young friends.
He has rejected traditional religious affiliations.
She opted for an inexpensive quartz watch.
 

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It's all about what's modifying what. There is a trick though. If you can replace a comma with "and" and it makes sense -- A long and hot summer -- then a comma is called for. If it doesn't make sense -- A tall and blue spruce tree -- no comma.

Sandy
 

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John Hamilton said:
Such adjectives, which are called coordinate adjectives, can also usually be reversed in order and still make sense. If
Just quoting what John wrote above for emphasis. Reversing the order of the words and seeing if the sentence still makes sense, is a great little trick. My high-school English teacher taught me that and I never forgot it.
 

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T.J. Dotson said:
Just quoting what John wrote above for emphasis. Reversing the order of the words and seeing if the sentence still makes sense, is a great little trick. My high-school English teacher taught me that and I never forgot it.
Yes, I was just about to emphasize this for clarity, but you beat me to the punch, T.J. Thanks!
 

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John Hamilton beat me to the punch.

I just wanted to pop in and say that I absolutely love threads like this.

They really help authors to "hone their craft." Many questions like this may even be ones that some are afraid to ask in fear of appearing 'uneducated.' But, you certainly will never know unless you ask!

It also helps when many people answer. They may be saying pretty much the same thing, but while one explanation may not work for someone, a different one might 'catch the ride brain wave and surf the idea home.'  ;)

Thanks for asking, Randy!
 

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I just wanted to add that of course you don't have to use a comma, the grammar police won't bash down your door and arrest you.

A lot depends on the tone and "voice" you're trying to create as a narrator. For example: "It was a dark and stormy night." But since that passage is often vilified as the epitome of bad writing, maybe it's not such a good example. :)

"It was a dark, stormy night." Yeah, that's better. ;D
 

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Terrence OBrien said:
Blanche stood beside a tall, blue flagpole.
John Hamilton said:
I just wanted to add that of course you don't have to use a comma, the grammar police won't bash down your door and arrest you.

A lot depends on the tone and "voice" you're trying to create as a narrator. For example: "It was a dark and stormy night." But since that passage is often vilified as the epitome of bad writing, maybe it's not such a good example. :)

"It was a dark, stormy night." Yeah, that's better. ;D
Blanche stood beside a tall, blue flagpole on a dark, stormy night. ;D
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks so much. Being able to reverse the order of adjectives really helps. I didn't know a blue spruce was the name of a tree.

Randy
 

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I'm a longtime student of/advocate of the Chicago Manual of Style.

The grammar nerd in me... and I never much liked grammar, but poor grammar bugs me... is such a Chicago Manual of Style devotee than when some authors choose to us the Associated Press Stylebook, it drives me to complete distraction and frustration. Especially as it relates to commas.

The AP Stylebook handles things as it handles things because it was designed specifically for short-form/limited space use, such as newspapers and magazines.

That's why it eschews commas most of the time... to save space.

("Mary had red, blue and green marbles" -AP, rather than "Mary had red, blue, and green marbles" - CMS)

That's why it uses numerals rather than spelling numbers out:

("Mary had 15 marbles in all" -AP, rather than "Mary had fifteen marbles in all" -CMS)

The Chicago Manual has always been the preferred style manual for book publishing. It's how books are supposed to be edited. And yet, so many writers... especially those from a journalism background... want to edit their books to AP standards.

It might seem silly to others, but that drives me BATTY! ;)
 

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CraigInTwinCities said:
The Chicago Manual has always been the preferred style manual for book publishing. It's how books are supposed to be edited. And yet, so many writers... especially those from a journalism background... want to edit their books to AP standards.

It might seem silly to others, but that drives me BATTY! ;)
Ditto!

When I edit, I am continuously spelling out numbers and adding those serial commas. I use the Chicago Manual of Style as final say in all of my editing. ;D
 

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I am deeply attached to the serial comma. Last winter I was doing (non-fiction) chapter reviews for a friend of mine. He mostly wanted my take on some issues the book discussed, but as a former copy-editor I couldn't help pointing out the few typos I came across. And he doesn't use serial commas, which drove me crazy (he's been a journalist for years, totally AP style). I complained about them all, but he ignored me :) I wonder what the actual press editor said about it.
 

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"Mary had red, blue and green marbles" -AP
I hate this construction. I had one publisher whose house style required it. When I got the rights back, I edited all those commas back in. Ha!

Seriously, though, that's the joy of indie publishing-- you can choose which stylebook you prefer to use. :)
 

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Thing is, I've been in journalism, too. Nearly a decade of experience, several awards.

I can do AP Stylebook. I can adapt, when it's appropriate.

What drives me nutty are those who mix-n-match. Who use AP in a CMS setting, primarily.

I suppose using CMS conventions in an AP setting might do it, too, but that really doesn't pop up too much.

AP has done a more successful job brainwashing writers to their ways... you have to learn CMS... hee hee!
 
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