Monday, September 28, 2009

Editorial Tip of the Week: Getting Descriptive with Commas

We all love description; this makes adjectives key tools in our stories. Thanks to adjectives, your hero or heroine can be short, funny, tall, old, and quirky. Not even Dan Brown (you may have heard of him?) shies away from adjectives in his prequel Angels and Demons: "Although not overly handsome in a classical sense, the forty-year-old Langdon had what his female colleagues referred to as an 'erudite' appeal - wisp of gray in his thick brown hair, probing eyes, an arrestingly deep voice, and the strong, carefree smile of a collegiate athlete."

How else could we understand that Langden often displays a carefree smile not unlike that of Jeremiah Masoli after leading the University of Oregon Ducks in a crushing defeat of Cal? I digress.

You may be curious why Mr. 5 Million uses commas after certain adjectives and not others, even when there are two or more before the noun. Never fear, the Big Orange is always ready to enlighten.

Direct your own "probing eyes" this way and read aloud in your "arrestingly deep voice," if so inclined. Chicago states, "When a noun is preceded by two or more adjectives that could, without affecting the meaning, be joined by and, the adjectives are normally separated by commas. But if the noun and the adjective immediately preceding it are conceived as a unit, such as 'little girl,' 'political science,' or 'glass ceiling,' no comma should be used."

What do you think?
More adjectives necessary? Can you rise to the comma challenge?

Dan Brown example taken from this article; let's just leave my humble opinion out of the debate for now.

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