When adding commas between adjectives, I usually ask myself the following questions:

  1. Can I swap the adjectives and still get the same meaning?
  2. Can I add the word "and" between the two adjectives and does it make sense?

However, I've run across a situation I need some advice on. How do I deal with the following sentence?

The thought of a free-roaming ten-foot slithering snake was really creepy to me.

I've never had a sentence with multiple compound adjectives, and it's really throwing me off. Can someone please tell me if its ok to leave this sentence as it is, or do I need to add commas?


3 Answers 3


I fail to see why the situation with hyphenated compound adjectives is any different from that with simple adjectives. It is normal practice to put commas between multiple adjectives (with some variation in style regarding the last adjective if ‘and’ is included) — see e.g. Crystal. So a simplified model of your sentence would have commas as:

…a wild, long, slithering snake…

Whatever the virtues of your self-imposed rules, they work in the same way if you replace ‘wild’ by ‘free-roaming’, and ‘long’ by ‘ten-foot’.

…a free-roaming, ten-foot, slithering snake…

As justification for this point of view, all I can find at the moment is a SE EL&U question on a slightly different topic, in which the use of commas was not criticized:

I will be investigating control issues in ground-based, water-based, and air-based robots.

In conclusion, you do need commas.


I think it's okay without commas, but adding commas would add emphasis to each element. Commas would also make it easier for someone reading aloud. Personally, I like to use as many commas as possible, but I would say that this example is a matter of personal preference.


I think it stands out to you not because of the commas, which I would use on occasion, but because of the adjective order. I'm not sure on grammar but at least size is listed as to appear pretty close to the noun


The commas I see frequently omitted, eg. at the linked site.

  • 2
    Links fade. Please summarize the linked page in your answer.
    – Hank
    Feb 24, 2017 at 18:18

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