By Mark Nichol
Use of hyphens and commas in phrases that include names of colors is the cause of some confusion among writers. Here’s a discussion of when to insert or omit these punctuation marks when referring to colors.
As with most other phrasal adjectives, pairs of words that together describe the color of an object should be hyphenated: A suit that is dark blue (referring to degree of saturation) is a dark-blue suit, and a suit that is blue gray (identifying a combination of colors) is a blue-gray suit. (Note, too, that a modifying phrase referring to color, like most phrasal adjectives, is not hyphenated when it follows rather than precedes the noun it modifies.)
The previous rule applies not only to combinations of colors but to degrees (“greenish-blue dress,” “a dress that is greenish blue”) or comparisons (“snow-white fabric,” “fabric that is snow white”) of color.
Remember, too, that light has two distinct meanings: A light green package is a green package that doesn’t weigh much; a light-green package is a package that is a light shade of green. When the adjective or phrasal adjective follows the noun or noun phrase, and no hyphenation occurs, the distinction is still clear: The first description is of a green package that is light, and the second is of a package that is light green.
When the name of a color is one of two or more adjectives preceding a noun, whether and which of the adjectives are separated by commas depends on whether they are coordinate adjectives or not — whether they each modify the noun, rather than one modifying a phrase consisting of an adjective and a noun.
For example, in “a tall, green pole,” a comma separates the two adjectives because they are coordinate, or equivalent. See More . . .
. . . When it comes to breaking the rules for adverbs and adjectives, you’ve got at least five great reasons to do it. 1) The verb or noun you need doesn’t exist in your language. 2) To control pacing. 3) To communicate interesting or unusual situations. 4) To create a specific tone or character voice. 5) The adverb or adjective is doing double duty.
What’s the Rule?
Don’t use adverbs because it weakens your writing. Use adjectives rarely for the same reason.
Why it’s a Rule
Take a look at these sentences:
She laughed happily.
The yellow sun was beating down on us.
Jasper pulled hard on the doorknob.
“Get your butt to your room right now!” Cynthia said, angrily.
I quickly put on my beautiful, silky pointe shoes and with my thin, spindly, little fingers tie the ribbons around my bony ankle, so they fit constrictingly. I walk awkwardly to the dark, dim wings of the huge stage. I think about one fun evening at a local theater where I lovingly watched a ballerina dance gracefully across the stage and into the soft air. Happy and thrilled, everyone there smiled with joyful eyes. See More . . .