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Quotes and Coordinate Adjectives

Rule #6: Quotes

Use commas to introduce certain quoted material.


A comma must be used to introduce a quote if the quote is an independent clause.

Example: Walt Whitman demonstrates his carefree attitude when he proclaims, “I wear my hat as I please, indoors or out.”


However, a comma is not used if the quote is a dependent clause or phrase.

Example: He considers himself above societal norms, wearing his hat “indoors and out.”

Rule #7: Coordinate Adjectives

Use commas to separate two or more coordinate adjectives that describe the same noun. Be sure not to add an extra comma between the final adjective and the noun itself or to use commas with non-coordinate adjectives.

Coordinate adjectives are adjectives with equal (“co”-ordinate) status in describing the noun; neither adjective is less than (subordinate to) the other. You can decide if two adjectives in a row are coordinate by asking the following questions:

  • Does the sentence make sense if the adjectives are written in reverse order?
  • Does the sentence make sense if the adjectives are written with and between them?

If you answer yes to these questions, then the adjectives are coordinate and should be separated by a comma. Here are some examples of coordinate and non-coordinate adjectives:

  • Scrooge was a cold, unfeeling man. (coordinate: use a comma) Consider: “Scrooge was an unfeeling, cold man” makes perfect sense.
  • He wore a large wool sweater. (non-coordinate: do not use a comma) Consider: “He wore a wool, large sweater” sounds weird because “wool” tells us more about the sweater’s basic properties than “large” does.
  • The boys crawled into the decrepit school building. (non-coordinate: do not use a comma) Consider: “The boys crawled into the school, decrepit building” does not work at all because “decrepit” does not tell us anything at all about the kind of building.
  • I winced at the bright, piercing light. (coordinate: use a comma) Consider: “I winced at the piercing, bright light” sounds fine.
Your Turn: Test Your Understanding!