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I'm designing a board game and I've run into an issue regarding a string of adjectives that come up frequently in the game. Sadly, I'm a non-native speaker, so I thought it best to reach out and be sure.

The sentence is "target 1 other willing living creature within 5 squares."

As far as I understand, you seperate coordinate adjectives with commas while cumulative adjectives aren't seperated by anything (except for a space).

My question comes down to whether the above adjectives - "other," "willing," and "living" - are coordinate or cumulative? Where, if anywhere, should I put commas?

migrated from english.stackexchange.com Jan 13 at 18:10

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  • Leaving out commas between coordinate adjectives is a very minor mistake in English, and putting in commas between cumulative adjectives is also a very minor mistake. I think that technically, willing and living are probably coordinate adjectives. But if I was writing this sentence, I'd leave the comma between them out (I can't say why). However, there isn't anything wrong with putting it in. – Peter Shor Jan 13 at 15:17
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    I should say that other is definitely a cumulative adjective here, so it shouldn't have a comma after it. But don't worry about it too much. Even native English speakers don't always follow this rule. – Peter Shor Jan 13 at 15:18
  • @rocketzombiesboardsgame. Your example has what is called 'stacked' modification (your 'cumulative adjectives') as evidenced by the lack of punctuation. If commas are added, it becomes a coordination of adjectives. There is often a difference in meaning between the two types, so you first need to decide on your intended meaning and then include punctuation if appropriate. – BillJ Jan 13 at 18:41
  • Does your game allow for willing dead (or undead) creatures? If not, then I would just say willing. If it does then, in the context of the game, they could certainly be cumulative—in the sense that there is a contrast to be made between willing living creatures and willing dead creatures. Especially if you talk about willing dead creatures elsewhere. (Or just say willing humans as opposed to willing zombies. I just noted your username.) – Jason Bassford Jan 13 at 19:09

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