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I was looking at a dessert recipe and found this sentence:

Makes 24, 2" x 2" squares.

Almost every source I've found seems to suggest that "24" and "2 x 2" are cumulative adjectives (i.e. it doesn't make sense to replace the comma with "and"), so the comma is extraneous. However, you could make an argument that the added comma is correct because it adds clarity to a potentially confusing sentence.

My question is this: is there a specific grammar rule that allows you to write commas between numerals for clarity? Alternatively, is there another reason why this comma placement is correct?

  • This is recipe notation, not proper English. That doesn't mean that it doesn't have its place. – Davo Dec 7 '17 at 19:21
  • Formatting usually negates confusion: Makes 24 2"x2" squares. However, if really concerned, try: Makes twenty-four 2" X 2" squares – Stu W Jan 7 '18 at 1:06
  • On the contrary, adding that comma creates more confusion. – Myridium Apr 7 '18 at 2:23
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You’ve got the right rule. You can’t replace the comma with “and”, so a comma doesn’t work there. It will send your reader down a garden path.

For example, it will be easy to mistake “24” for the direct object of “makes”. The reader will then be looking for something that follows an object – such as an appositive, the next item in a series, or a dependent clause. They’ll have to stop short and reparse the sentence when it turns out that “24” is an adjective modifying the actual object, “squares”.

An alternate solution in this case would be to spell out “twenty-four”.

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    Another solution would be an explicit parenthetical: Makes 24 (2"x2") squares. – AmI Dec 7 '17 at 21:25
  • @AmI Certainly. – MetaEd Dec 8 '17 at 15:33

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