What are Coordinate and Cumulative Adjectives?
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- Coordinate and Cumulative Adjectives
Coordinate adjectives are two or more adjectives modifying a noun, independently of one another. Unlike cumulative adjectives, coordinate adjectives can be placed in any order.
William is an educated and wealthy man. (William is an educated man. William is a wealthy man.)
William is a wealthy and educated man.
It is important that coordinate adjectives are separated by "and" or a comma.
William is an educated, respected, and wealthy man.
William is an educated, respected, wealthy man.
In English, the Oxford comma, sometimes called a serial comma, is a point of debate among advocates of different styles in writing. The Oxford comma refers to the final comma in a list of three or more items. Opinions differ in whether or not an Oxford comma should be used and also in what kind of writing it is to be used. It is highly recommended that we use this comma to avoid confusion.
I bought vegetables, fruits, and meat. (with the Oxford comma, recommended)
I bought vegetables, fruits and meat. (without the Oxford comma, not recommended)
However, there are instances when not using the Oxford comma can cause strange misunderstandings.
I took a photograph of my parents, the president, and the vice president. (with the Oxford comma)
I took a photograph of my parents, the president and the vice president. (without the Oxford comma)
The second version, the one without the Oxford comma, is confusing. Without the comma, I am taking a picture of two people, my parents who are the president and the vice president. With the comma, I am taking a picture of four people (my parents, the president, and the vice president).
Cumulative adjectives are two or more adjectives standing as a unit to modify a noun. They are not independent of one another. Unlike coordinate adjectives, cumulative adjectives are to be placed in the order as specified below.
Students are highly likely to encounter problems arranging their adjectives, especially when there is a long list of them. While there are multiple (cumulative) adjectives in a sentence, we should order them as follows:
number – opinion – size – age – shape – color – origin – materials – purpose
I am reading a short interesting story. (incorrect)
I am reading an interesting (opinion) short (size) story. (correct)