My team are going back and forth between the proper usage of a specific sentence in our project proposal. This project proposal is being presented to a school, so we want to make sure we are correct in our usage.

Currently, it's set to

The stories are evaluated on topic, content, compliance, artistic, and educational values.

Attaching the word 'values' to each of the criteria doesn't sound correct for 'topic, content, compliance'.

I think it should be in one of the following two formats:

The stories are evaluated on topic, content, compliance, and artistic and educational values.


The stories are evaluated on topic, content, compliance, artistic value, and educational value.

Are either of those feasible for the proper format of the sentence, or is there another way that it should be written?


or even replacing 'artistic' with a noun, making it 'artwork' instead.

The stories are evaluated on topic, content, compliance, artwork, and educational value.

Does this separate 'educational value' into its own idea as opposed to 'value' being attached to each listed criteria?

  • The last version appears much better. An alternative could be "The stories are evaluated on topic, content and compliance; and artistic and educational values." -- The semicolon helps where too many instances of and appear in one sentence.
    – Kris
    Sep 12 '12 at 13:51

I would write:

The stories are evaluated on topic, content, compliance, and artistic and educational value.

Assuming that you are not rating on "topic value", etc, then you are correct, you want to separate the "non-value things" from the "value things".

Note that you should write "artistic and educational value", not "artistic and educational values". "Value" here is not a countable noun: you are not saying that there are two or three or ten "values". There is just an amorphous mass of value.

  • Selected this one as the answer. The use of the word 'values' was throwing off the entire sentence. When Jay brought this to light, it all made sense as to why it just didn't work. Sep 12 '12 at 14:19

Both of your suggested rewrites are correct. In both cases, "value" is correctly attached to the adjectives "artistic" and "educational." And the original sentence is incorrect (or at least terribly awkward) for the reason you suggest.

  • +1 I just had a thought... what if we replaced 'artistic' with 'artwork' so to turn it into a noun. Would this make 'educational values' its own idea in this case? Sep 12 '12 at 13:55
  • @Mechaflash your suggested edit with "artwork" instead of "artistic value" reads well - only you and your team know whether it captures what you wish to evaluate. But I do think that Jay's answer works best ("values" was looking funny to me too, but he nailed it).
    – JAM
    Sep 12 '12 at 14:27

Of the three, your second sentence works best. It avoids the repetition of "value" and correctly separates nouns from adjectives in the list:

The stories are evaluated on topic, content, compliance, and artistic and educational values.

Note that you could substitute the singular "value" for "values" — assuming you didn't want to stress the heterogeneity of the values.

If you wanted to avoid the repetition of "and" in close proximity you could write

The stories are evaluated on topic, content, and compliance, as well as artistic and educational value.

At that point, though, it's really just a matter of style.

  • 1
    +1 @tchrist I see what Robusto is doing. He's separating the three into their own ideas: topic as one idea, content and compliance is one idea, and artistic and educational value is another idea. It's definitely a mix up from the standard traditional listing of criteria. However, I also see how that can be interpreted as 'content and compliance' being the descriptor for 'topic' in this way. Sep 12 '12 at 13:59
  • @tchrist: Are you objecting to my omission of the Oxford comma? I'm listing topic, content [comma] and compliance as three items, and finishing with "value" (modified by adjectives into two items).
    – Robusto
    Sep 12 '12 at 14:02
  • Well, I suppose in this case the Oxford comma makes it clearer. Though not always. I will edit it in just for you.
    – Robusto
    Sep 12 '12 at 14:06
  • I know it's bad to say 'it doesn't sound right'... but it doesn't sound right lol. Although grammatically correct, when you say the sentence, I feel as though there is a lack of flow when adding the Oxford comma... as if 'artistic and education value' is now an afterthought. Sep 12 '12 at 14:13

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