Is a comma required or preferred between fresh and seasonal in the following phrase?

Fresh seasonal produce

I suspect the answer hinges on whether fresh and seasonal can be swapped around. If they cannot, then no commas should be added.

  • 2
    Neither. When in doubt, the best rule of thumb is not to include commas, which are generally in decline anyway. – FumbleFingers Feb 13 '18 at 14:41

Commas are a matter of convention.

You might include a comma if you were developing a specification for a school lunch program, say:

... fresh, locally grown, non-GMO produce shall be served at every meal.

A comma there would be understood to mean that each term in the list is to be regarded as a discrete item in the spec.

But if you're just describing the produce you can use a comma or not at your discretion:

Fresh seasonal produce is all we serve here at Fast Food Is Us™.

  • Is it natural to say "seasonal fresh produce"? – Apollyon Feb 13 '18 at 16:00
  • I think you can, books.google.com/ngrams/… – Bavyan Yaldo Feb 13 '18 at 16:07
  • 1
    fresh is a qualitative opinion and would normally appear before seasonal which is an objective attribute. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 13 '18 at 16:13
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo In that case, when an adjective or other modifier forms a "closer" unit with the noun, there should be no comma between the unit and a preceding adjective, should it? – Apollyon Feb 13 '18 at 22:21
  • Not sure what you mean by "closer unit".There are no hard-and-fast rules here, so I'm not even sure what you mean by "should". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 13 '18 at 22:47

You may find useful the common Order of Adjectives: enter image description here

We could debate about the exact order of "fresh" and "seasonal", but to save time let's assume "fresh" refers to age (or quality), and "seasonal" to type. In this case, "fresh" naturally comes before "seasonal".

With two adjectives, the comma is generally optional (but helpful). The comma separates the adjectives as distinct features, replacing the word "and":

The service provides quick, reliable copy editing.

The software delivers frequent, fast updates of market activity.

The exception is in advertising, headlines, or other kinds of banners where punctuation is kept to a minimum:

Sale On Fresh Seasonal Produce! Today Only!

  • If the attributive adjectives are not interchangeable in order, is the comma acceptable? The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation seems to advise against it. – Apollyon Feb 13 '18 at 22:29
  • @Apollyon The only time I, personally, would not use the comma is in a banner or headline. – Andrew Feb 14 '18 at 3:07

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