Have you ever wondered when to put a comma between two adjectives that fall before a noun? About five years ago, I started to brood over the commas-and-adjectives issue. Growing up, I learned that you always add a comma, but to my ear, that often seemed wrong. Was the rule on its way out of style completely, as I’d heard rumored? Yet, I still felt a pause between adjectives when I said phrases like, “It was a beautiful, seductive lie.” Didn’t a comma belong there? I suspected that this old prescription was probably a linguistic cudgel operating where a scalpel was required to properly describe the behavior of English. So I put on my grammar-detective hat and started researching.
The resulting series of blog posts, which appeared in The Particular in 2009, grew into an article published in Copyediting in 2011. The full text of that article is now available as a writing sample in Uncanny Vale, under the “Nonfiction” menu.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a copyeditor, this article offers a glimpse. Writer and former literary agent Nathan Bransford defines copyeditors as “a magical breed of elves whose ears turn white when they see an improper comma splice.” Although my ear tips were still round last time I checked, I can’t deny that we take our hair-splitting seriously. If you share a taste for peeling back language’s elemental layers, you might enjoy perusing Uncanny Vale’s latest addition.