[LMB] another hyphenation dilemma

Paula Lieberman paal at filker.org
Mon Sep 28 12:55:23 BST 2015

There's are differences amoung big beautiful cabbage; beautiful big cabbage; 
beautiful, big cabbage; and a big, beautiful cabbage:
In the first case, the beautiful cabbage is big.  In the second, the big 
cabbage in beautiful.  In the third, it's a big cabbage, and it is 
beautiful.  IN the last, it is a beautiful cabbage, and it is big.   The 
first two are more specific to the specific cabbage, the second two are more 
general.  The emphases are different.

--Paula Lieberman
-----Original Message----- 
From: M. Haller Yamada
Sent: Sunday, September 27, 2015 11:55 PM
To: Discussion of the works of Lois McMaster Bujold.
Subject: Re: [LMB] another hyphenation dilemma

I spent my weekend trying to educate myself about multiple adjectives and 
when to
add a comma. Chicago Manual of Style helps, but not completely. Coordinate
adjectives before a noun are supposed to have a comma between them, but I 
having a lot of problems. I think I may have been taught (incorrectly) that 
silver groundcar" would have a comma between them.

But the rule here is that if the order can be changed, they are coordinate 
need a comma. If the order can't be changed, then they are cumulative and 
need a comma.

In most cases, native speakers just know if the word order is right. (An 
speaker would not speak of a silver, long groundcar, for example, unless in 
universe the long ground car was some sort of a thing, like a limousine.) If 
two (or three) adjectives have the same "quality" they are coordinate.

The problem comes in when a word can belong to two "quality" categories. I 
two useful sites for ESL/EFL learners about defining a quality.


This one says the qualities are listed in the following order: opinion, 
age, length or shape, color, origin (or nationality or religion), material,

Of course, the first sentence I choose to test it turns out to not work -- 
beautiful, big . . . . We'd say big, beautiful (cabbage). But their sample
sentences all work. Well, except attractive young American lady. I'd want to 
a young, attractive American lady (but lookie there, I naturally put the 
in). A modern Japanese electric car works fine for me, as does a big square 

Another site had even more qualities to mull over. Articles, possessives,
demonstratives; numbers, amounts, sequence; opinions/evaluations; size,
length/shape, condition, color, pattern; origin, material, purpose/kind, 
noun as
adjective. Take a look at their chart. It's a thing of beauty!


So, I think the hyphens come in when there is some doubt if modifiers are
cumulative or coordinate. A hot weather balloon, and a hot-weather balloon 
be different things.

Merriam-Webster isn't very much help. They say bigheaded is when someone is
conceited. But so is big-headed, according to them.

My very favorite piece of writing advice I got from my professors is when in
doubt, reword. Unfortunately, I think that mostly works only when the work 
gone out in the big, wide world.  Trying to reword something like Emily 
or even something newer like "to boldly go" just doesn't seem right.

Micki (working her thoughts out in public)

P.S. Even my computer is confused. It doesn't like hot weather balloon at 
(that is to say: a weather balloon that is hot), but is just fine with the 
weather balloon (the balloon that survives high temperatures). Or have I got 
wrong STILL? 

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