I'm writing something and there are several places where I need to use multiple adjectives.

I've always learnt that multiple adjectives should always be separated by a comma, but my supervisor said that they should only be separated by a comma if they are different.

So whereas I would say:

We present a novel, industry-inspired problem [...]

He argues it should be:

We present a novel industry-inspired problem [...]

What is the complete rule regarding multiple adjectives and commas? Thank you.

  • 1
    It depends on whether it is a novel problem that is also industry-inspired or it is an industry-inspired problem that is only novel among other industry-inspired problems. With a comma the two are independent (novel stands on its own). Without a comma, novel qualifies industry-inspired.
    – Drew
    Dec 28 '16 at 5:22
  • This smells like a duplicate...
    – Drew
    Dec 28 '16 at 5:22

Coordinate Adjectives work together to modify the final noun and are separated by commas:

The ugly, hairy monster looks hunger.

A good test to see if the adjectives are coordinate is to see if you can replace the comma with an 'and' and preserve the meaning of the sentence.

That ugly and hairy monster looks hunger.

Another test would be to change the order of the adjectives. If it still makes sense, you're looking at coordinating adjectives and they should be separated by a comma.

That hairy, ugly monster looks hunger.

Cumulative Adjectives fail both of these tests and require no comma between them.

He sat in the comfy easy chair.

Here 'easy chair' forms a unit of meaning and doesn't make sense if we were to break it away from the noun it modifies.

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