Coordinate adjectives should be separated by a comma or the word and. Adjectives are said to be coordinate (if they modify the same noun) in a sentence.
This is going to be a long, cold winter.
Isobel’s dedicated and tireless efforts made all the difference.
But just the fact that two adjectives appear next to each other doesn’t automatically mean they are coordinate. Sometimes, an adjective and a noun form a single semantic unit, which is then modified by another adjective. In this case, the adjectives are not coordinate and should not be separated by a comma.
My cat, Goober, loves sleeping on this tattered woolen sweater.
No one could open the old silver locket.
In some cases, it’s pretty hard to decide whether two adjectives are coordinate or not. But there are a couple of ways you can test them. Try inserting the word andbetween the adjectives to see if the phrase still seems natural. In the first sentence, “this tattered and woolen sweater” doesn’t sound right because you really aren’t talking about a sweater that is both tattered and woolen. It’s a woolen sweater that is tattered. Woolen sweater forms a unit of meaning that is modified by tattered.
Another way to test for coordinate adjectives is to try switching the order of the adjectives and seeing if the phrase still works. In the second sentence, you wouldn’t say “No one could open the silver old locket.” You can’t reverse the order of the adjectives because silver locket is a unit that is modified by old.
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