famous deceased Italian actor (commas?)

Alfred001

Senior Member
English - American
Where would you put commas, if anywhere, in the phrase "famous deceased Italian actor" if it appeared in a sentence?

Do style books give any rules on this sort of thing or commas in general?
 
  • Alfred001

    Senior Member
    English - American
    I don't really have one, but let's say "Guess which famous deceased Italian actor I'm thinking of."
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    • Use a listing comma in a list wherever you could conceivably use the word and (or or) instead. Do not use a listing comma anywhere else.
    • Put a listing comma before and or or only if this is necessary to make your meaning clear.

    The Listing Comma : The Comma
    In your sentence I wouldn't use any commas. In "famous deceased Italian actor", I think it's true to say that "Italian" modifies "actor", "deceased" modifies "Italian actor", and "famous" modifies "deceased Italian actor".

    Compare with this list of adjectives, all of which modify "actor": "He's a marvellous, intelligent, funny, handsome actor".
     

    Alfred001

    Senior Member
    English - American
    I agree on no commas, however I would say famous and deceased both modify Italian actor, but I assume you would say that if that were the case then it should be famous, deceased italian actor, and I suppose I would agree with your reasoning.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Here's what G.V.Carey has to say, in his Mind the Stop (A brief guide to punctuation):

    When two or more epithets qualify the same noun, it is unusual to separate the epithets by commas if they are, so to speak, cumulative; not otherwise.e.g.

    A dazzling, luxurious limousine drew up.
    He was a sallow, weedy, insignificant-looking individual.

    But

    A large grey sports car drew up.
    Some ugly new seaside bungalows...
     

    Alfred001

    Senior Member
    English - American
    I think I agree with the examples, but I don't understand the explanation. I don't understand what's meant by cumulative.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I agree on no commas, however I would say famous and deceased both modify Italian actor, but I assume you would say that if that were the case then it should be famous, deceased italian actor, and I suppose I would agree with your reasoning.
    I think that's right: you can punctuate the phrase either way, depending on the message you want to convey.
    (1)
    I'm thinking of an Italian actor.
    What sort of Italian actor?
    One who's famous and deceased.
    >>> I'm thinking of a famous, deceased Italian actor.
    (2)
    I'm thinking of a deceased Italian actor.
    What sort of deceased Italian actor?
    A famous one.
    >>> I'm thinking of a famous deceased Italian actor.

     

    Alfred001

    Senior Member
    English - American
    Just heard another explanation for this:

    A comma should go if you can put an "and" between the items.

    So "She has long, shiny, black hair" can be "She has long and shiny and black hair"

    While "He bought a bottle of dark German beer" can't be "He bought a bottle of dark and German beer"
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Perhaps electrical wiring can give us a useful analogy.

    If the adjectives are in parallel [long, black, shiny hair] the comma is needed.
    If they are in series (or 'transitive') [dark German beer] there should be no comma.
     
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