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Commas Between Adjectives

A frequent source of confusion is whether or not to use commas after the adjectives that precede a noun.

The rule is to use a comma after each coordinating adjective or word, but not after cumulative adjectives. If you can insert an and between the adjectives without changing the meaning, they are coordinate.

A simpler way of expressing this is:

  1. Use a comma to separate two or more adjectives, adverbs, or phrases that modify the same word or phrase.

  2. Do not use a comma between two adjectives if the first adjective modifies the combination of the second adjective and the noun that follows.

The following sentences illustrate the points:

  1. The long, black limousine slowly pulled away from the curb.

    • Long modifies limousine, as does and black. You could insert "and" without changing the meaning.

  2. The yellow stucco wall of the hut came into view as he rounded the turn.

    • Yellow modifies stucco wall, not wall.

  3. Happily, he was able to purchase a good used car.

    • Good modifies used car, not car.

  4. It was the only freshwater lake in the region.

    • Only modifies freshwater lake, not lake.

  5. For his birthday, she prepared a rich chocolate layer cake.

    • Layer modifies cake, chocolate modifies layer cake, and rich modifies chocolate layer cake.

  6. He spoke in a quiet, relaxed manner.

    • Quiet modifies manner, as does relaxed.

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