Question of the comma


I'm at battle with a copy editor.  Can you tell me if commas are needed in the following two sentences?

They met for an extraordinary Wild Food dinner.


They dined at a hot local restaurant.

Please explain what 'Wild Food' is, in particular why it is capitalized. Is it a proper name of something?

linguisticturnMar 20 at 18:41

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3 answers


"Wild" modifies "food," not "dinner," so no comma is needed, but I would put one after "extraordinary."

I think an argument could be made for a comma or no comma in the second. I personally would consider them cumulative adjectives and not put a comma. 

link comment edited Mar 20 at 17:51 Lewis Neidhardt Grammarly Fellow

What I say about your first sentence will depend on why Wild Food is capitalized (see the comment I posted, above). If it is a proper name of something, then your case is a bit like the following ones (all of them from published literature):


[1] i. the quite extraordinary United States interest in Benedict Anderson's 1983 book

      ii. Our somewhat higher exports are explained by extraordinary United States aid programs.

      iii.  So ended the most extraordinary United States presidential election in over one hundred years.


No comma needed after extraordinary in any of these.


But it's not capitalization that matters. For example, if you search google books for 'extraordinary wild animal', you will find many hits, and none of them are either capitalized or with a comma. The reason, I think, is that wild animal is a compound noun, which is then modified by extraordinary.


But if the capitalization was a mistake, then a comma is normally needed after extraordinary---see the reply by Deva R Kumar. (For even more information, see here.)


As far as the second sentence: by default, no comma (again, see Deva R Kumar's answer, or the link above). Moreover, if you search google books for 'hot local restaurant', you will find at least three examples, and none of them includes a comma. If you expand your search to just 'hot local', you can see that in the first 100 or so results, not a single one includes a comma.


In certain contexts, though, I believe that a comma might be OK, namely when local is to be emphasized:


Jane kept saying that there are no good restaurants outside the island of Manhattan, and certainly none in her suburban town. So it was no small task to convince her to try a hot, local restaurant.


In short, unless you have some good reason to emphasize local, don't put a comma.

link comment edited Mar 21 at 07:07 linguisticturn Expert

They met for an extraordinary, wild food dinner.

- We need a comma here because they are coordinate adjectives.

They dined at a hot local restaurant.

- We do not need a comma because they are cumulative adjectives.


For better understanding, please read about coordinate and cumulative adjectives.

A shortcut would be to use 'and' between adjectives and see if the statement makes sense without altering the meaning. In that case they would be coordinate adjectives, else cumulative adjectives.

link comment edited Mar 20 at 17:47 Deva R Kumar Contributor

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