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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Grammar Tip: Coordinating Adjectives

This past February I had the awesome opportunity to go the ANWA conference in Phoenix. It was a blast and I leaned a BUNCH. Between pitching to Kelly Sonnack of Andrea Brown and Kurt Shaw from Covenant, I got to listen to some great speakers. One of the sessions I didn't get to stay for all of it, but loved the twenty minutes I got was Kelly Mortimer's self-editing class. She gave out an AMAZING hand-out of all these little things she sees when she reads manuscripts.
It gave me an idea. When I edit, I can't help but comment on all these tiny little things. So I created an editing guide. Armed with abbreviations, I cut down my editing time significantly. 

So, since I haven't had the time to write a THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW NOW post, I'll insert some grammar tips to tide you over. ;) Because as we all know, Grammar Is Not Optional. 

Today's Tip: Coordinating Adjectives

I'm just going to start at the top of my guide and head down. It's in alphabetical order (thanks to a suggestion from Shaunna). I've already covered AP (attribution punctuation. If you missed that post, it's under the THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW NOW series, Grammar Is Not Optional. It's a very necessary read if you don't know the proper way to punctuation "I went to the store," she said.)

That means CA is next: Coordinating Adjectives, which is exactly what is sounds like. Adjectives that coordinate with each other. 

We'll start with this sentence: I love my large, brown dog.
Think of it this way, Large and Brown texted each other and both decided to modify dog. They coordinated with each other. They need to be separated by a comma.
The trick to knowing if two adjectives are Coordinate Adjectives is if you can switch them around, insert and, and not change the meaning of the sentence.
I love my brown and large dog.
Yeah, that sounds a little kooky, but it's still correct and still makes sense.
There are times you don't need a comma, and that's when the adjectives don't coordinate. Grammar Girl uses the example "exquisite custom houseboat." Custom modifies houseboat, but they kind of end up as a couple, modified by exquisite. Make sense? Could you switch them around and still have the same meaning? No. So they're cumulative, not coordinate.
Here's the link to Grammar Girl:

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About Me!

I've been writing since I was old enough to grasp a crayon--my grandma even has an early copy of a "book" I made her. I have a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wyoming and will (hopefully) soon be starting a graduate program in English. When I'm not breaking up impromptu UFC fights in the living room or losing miserably to my boys at Uno, I'm ... well, writing or editing, of course! I'm married to my best friend, and we have three rambunctious but simply amazing little boys.


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