At the 2012 US Track and Field Championships, a tall, slim woman in a tracksuit watched the long jump final.

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/othersports/article-2574382/Hall-Fame-Jack-Joyner-Kersee-Heptathlons-original-Golden-Girl-First-Lady-track-field.html

enter image description here Why is there a commma after the word "tall"? I'd guess that it shouldn't be a comma because "tall" belongs to SIZE and "slim" belongs to SHAPE.

A young woman was assaulted by a short fat man with dirty trainers in a busy Plymouth street.

Source: http://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/woman-attacked-in-busy-plymouth-street-by-short-fat-man-wearing-dirty-trainers/story-29536571-detail/story.html "short" belongs to SIZE and "fat" belongs to SHAPE and there is no comma? Why is it so confusing? The categories are the same.

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    There is a difference between style and rule. The Royal Order of Adjectives is not a rule, and the inclusion of commas in a series of adjectives is not governed by a rule, either. In the newspaper quotes, the writers are using "journalese." It's a style, and you'll see many such usages. Don't worry about them! – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Aug 1 '16 at 18:55

The main reason there is a difference between comma usage for

a tall, slim woman
a short fat man

is stylistic.

Please note your examples are drawn from two different newspapers which may have their own, different style guides. One is a national publication and the other is regional.

The comma may or may not be included without any loss of understanding for either. I have always been taught to include commas in this situation.

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A comma is used because "tall" and "slim" are coordinate adjectives which modify "woman". Here is an article which explains how they are used in more detail.

Your second quote about the "short fat man" is grammatically incorrect. It should read:

"A young woman was assaulted by a short, fat man with dirty trainers..."

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  • But I've seen a lot of examples without a comma: bbc.co.uk/berkshire/content/articles/2005/08/03/… Here's the BBC article. I think it's a recognized website. – masterkomp Aug 1 '16 at 19:07
  • @masterkomp - Yes: that's because there is no rule governing this usage. It's a matter of preference and style, especially when the writer is a journalist. It's common for learners of English to worry about this, but you shouldn't. Follow the recommendations in whatever chart you like in your own writing, but don't worry when writers omit or add a comma. And don't forget: all websites are "recognized!" Anyone can create a website. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Aug 1 '16 at 19:11
  • But what if I want to correct my students' mistakes? What style/rule should I follow? – masterkomp Aug 1 '16 at 19:17
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    You seem to be saying a short fat man without a comma is "grammatically incorrect". That's complete nonsense. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Aug 1 '16 at 20:59
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    RE: What style/rule should I follow? You should tell your students to be consistent. We can find instances of both styles from reputable sources, so both styles are acceptable. Generally speaking, though, writers should avoid following one set of guidelines in one paragraph, and then using another in the next. – J.R. Aug 1 '16 at 21:25

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