Okay, this might be a very basic question, but I can't seem to figure this out.
Usually, a single adjective modifies multiple nouns or noun phrases individually in a series. For example, "expired" and "black" modifies all the nouns that follow:
To save a few pennies, Lewis picked up expired milk, cheese, and bread. - > [... expired milk, expired cheese, and expired bread]
She was wearing a black skirt, top, and jacket. - > [... a black skirt, a black top, and a black jacket]
My question is, How to state a total for a list of items without any ambiguity? For example:
I did 20 push-ups and 30 sit-ups yesterday. [This makes sense]
I did over 2,000 push-ups and sit-ups last month. [This only makes sense if it means "2000 push-ups and 2000 sit-ups]
I have 6 legs, hands, and eyes. [This doesn't make any sense, and it establishes that a total figure cannot be used like this]
Sometimes, you don't want to throw too many numbers at your reader, and you just need to provide a total for a list of things.
I spent 8 hours cleaning, cooking, and gardening. [??? This sounds natural, but it is technically incorrect if the intended meaning is "... spent a total of 8 hours doing a bunch of things"]
If I graded 6,000 assignments, 4,000 midterms, and 2,000 final exams, how do I correctly state the total figure?
Graded approximately 12,000 assignments, midterms, and final exams. [This is wrong! Here, "12,000" individually modifies each item]