Coordinate What?

Posted: November 25th, 2013, 7:14 pm   By: brittany.corners

So, you ask, “What are coordinate adjectives?” Well, you may not wonder in general, but if you are referencing the style guide, the following is good information to have. The guide reads, “Use a comma when a noun has two or more adjectives describing it.” Following the rule is this example, “The powerful, resonating writer caught our attention.” While this rule is accurate, it needs a bit of clarification.

When using a set of adjectives to modify or describe a noun, a comma qualifies the condition of the two adjectives. Only coordinate adjectives need a comma between them. This means each adjective can stand alone in describing the noun. For example, “The sweet, savory steak,” requires the comma as both sweet and savory modify the steak. An example of a non-coordinate adjective set reads, “The joyous holiday season” and needs no comma. Often when using non-coordinate adjectives, one of them functions as a noun disguised as an adjective.

A perk of the English language provides the opportunity for vagueness in adjective meaning. So, if it is unclear whether the first adjective describes the second one or the noun, you should not separate them with a comma-if you are taking a test. If you are writing, please ensure your word usage is clear and concise when it comes to adjective sets.