0

Should you use a comma in the term "single unified"? Here are two examples. (I have kept the original punctuation.)

The company uses a single, unified database for all its customer information.

The company is a pioneer in using a single unified and companywide platform.

I have read mixed assessments of whether a comma is needed.

  • 1
    Needed is a strong word, a comma certainly seems preferable to me. – Tushar Raj Mar 5 '18 at 19:20
  • The big, black dog. That said, if it is single, why say unified?Sounds "furrin". How could it be unified if there were two databases?? – Lambie Mar 5 '18 at 19:20
  • @Lambie I agree but "single unified" seems to be a common expression, well accepted, especially in technology writing. – debbiesym Mar 5 '18 at 20:30
  • Are you interested in common expressions? Or good English? simeiosolutions.com/we-provide-a-single-unified-interface – Lambie Mar 5 '18 at 20:33
  • 1
    Single, unified x is like big, bad wolf. There is no reason not to use a comma. But it also somewhat pleonastic. The bad English I was referring to was the absence of a comma ....a single database (as in an Oracle database) cannot be anything but unified, if it is single. – Lambie Mar 5 '18 at 20:59
3

Yes, it would seem the comma is needed. This is the very distinction between coordinate and cumulative adjectives.

If two modifiers are describing the same feature (and would make sense with the word "and" between them) they are coordinate. The "and" should then be replaced with a comma. As long as the cumulative adjective isn't used to create a compound noun, the comma is needed.

Example:
The wealthy, elegant lady looks like a model.

In contrast, cumulative adjectives build upon each other and must be in a certain order. They don't take "and" or commas between them.

Example:
The big old black bull followed the young Brahma cow.

In OP's example, since single and unified are both modifying "database" in the same way (number/size), they are coordinate adjectives. The sentence would read correctly if written:

The company uses a single and unified database for all its customer information.

Therefore we can replace the "and" with a comma:

The company uses a single, unified database for all its customer information.

1

It depends on what the noun is. If the writer is talking about database as the noun, you need a comma (single, unified database). By contrast, if the writer is talking about unified database as the compound noun, then the adjective single modifies unified database, so no comma there.

  • While that's true, the question seems to be about whether the two modifiers need necessarily be separated by a comma when they both modify the noun. – Kris Mar 6 '18 at 6:40
  • 1
    Yes, if the two modifiers can be separated using "and" and still the intended meaning is conveyed, I will use a comma between them. – Arun Mar 6 '18 at 6:51
  • 2
    "if the two modifiers can be separated using "and" and still the intended meaning is conveyed, I will use a comma between them" __ that is indeed the right logic @Arun, which you can edit into your answer. You can also strengthen your answer by adding an extract from (and link to) a standard online resource that mentions this approach or rule for using commas with adjectives. – English Student Mar 7 '18 at 2:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.