Using a Comma or “and” Before a Noun

Brand Message Expert Daisy McCarty asked me recently about using a comma or and in a sentence for one of her clients:

The company focuses on creating elegant, sensible solutions that allow our clients to do more… 

The company focuses on creating elegant and sensible  solutions that allow our clients to do more… 

Daisy want to ensure she used the right format … and don’t we all want the absolute best for our clients?

So which is correct?

Both. The comma basically takes the place of the word “and,” and it’s a matter of style as to whether a writer uses the word or the comma.

But is there a way to know for sure the word “and” even fits? Yes, there’s a basic rule.

Separate two or more adjectives that come before a noun with a comma if they could be separated with “and.”

How would you know? Try using the words before or after the noun and see if you can insert “and” between each.

“He’s an experienced, efficient assistant.” (He’s an experienced and efficient assistant.)

“She has a relaxed, unruffled manner.” (Her manner is relaxed and unruffled.)

But, when the first adjective modifies the combined idea of the second adjective plus the noun, do NOT use a comma.

“The estate is surrounded by an old stone wall. (The stone wall is old). We wouldn’t write or say “the wall is old and stone,” right?)

“The annual financial statements are due this month!” (We wouldn’t write or say “the statements are annual and financial,” right? They are financial statements that are annual.)

Do not use a comma between the final adjective and the noun.

Yesterday, I put in a long, hard, demanding day. (No comma between demanding and day.)

Is this everything we need to know about commas? Heck, no. That’s why there are so many style guides created — many for the same system, like the American one — and certainly many for other systems that use the English language but may differ on details.

Do you have a question I might be able to answer? I’m always happy to help.