Commas help to make a writer's meaning clear.  They help the reader get the meaning from writing. This is especially true when you are using two or more adjectives to describe something. 

The purpose of adjectives is to help the reader create a mental picture of the person, place, thing, or idea you are describing.  If you are using two or more adjectives to create this description, you need to separate them with commas to be sure that the reader is able to form a clear picture.

Use a comma to separate two or more adjectives that modify a noun.

One way to check for this is, if you can reverse the order of the adjectives and not change the meaning, use a comma after each adjective except for the last one.

For example:

The hot, crackling, smoky fire roared through the beautiful, old forests of Yosemite.

can be written as:

The smoky, crackling, hot fire roared through the old, beautiful forests of Yosemite.

without changing the meaning of the sentence!

Here are a few more examples:

The powerful, big, red fire truck raced down the busy, crowded highway.
The old, white, deserted  mansion near the dark, haunted cemetery had bats flying out of its dirty, broken windows.

In each of these examples you can switch the order of the adjectives before each noun and not change the meaning, so commas are needed after each adjective except the last one.  Try it!

Careful!!  Sometimes adjectives go together in a certain order to create one description.  They are not separated by commas when this is the case. 

 

For example:

My favorite dessert is a hot fudge sundae.
My brother's favorite is Dutch apple pie.
My light blue house has dark blue shutters and a great big yard.

In each of these cases, if you change the order of the adjectives, you would change the meaning.  These adjectives work together to create a description.


Remember these two conditions to check for adjectives that need to be separated by commas:

  1. Do the two or more adjectives describe different features and can their order be changed without losing the meaning? If so, place commas after each one except the last one.
  2. Do the adjectives work together to create one description?  If the order is changed would you change the meaning?  If so, no commas are needed between them.

 

Click on the Chalk board to practice
commas to separate
adjectives!

 

There are many other important and useful comma rules that you should know to improve your communication when you write.  Follow the links below to the lessons that introduce them:

Commas in dates, addresses, & letters

Commas
in a

Series

 

Commas in Compound Sentences
 


Commas With Interrupters

 

Commas With Direct
Address

 

 

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