Are We Clear on Clarity?

An editor recently gave me one of his business cards, which were embossed with the words accuracy, brevity, clarity — the trifecta of the profession. Today, I was reminded of clarity when I saw the text on the side of a business van.

Someone in the ‘hood was receiving a delivery of upscale grub  — you know what I’m talking about: local, organic, that sort of thing. (Why does this make me snerk? And why is a great word like snerk  not in the Canadian Oxford?) The text on the side of the delivery van was as follows: We deliver local and organic food. The and makes it clear that the food is local or organic but not necessarily both. I appreciate this attempt at clarity (as far as it goes) because it probably would have been easier to omit the and: We deliver local organic food. This sentence suggests, however, that the food is both local and organic, which may not be true. Hey, this sentence also allows us to do a little recap on yesterday’s adjective lesson.

How about it? Should there be a comma between local and organic in that sentence?

We deliver local organic food.

We deliver local, organic food.

Remember the royal order of adjectives? If you do, you’ll recall that origin (local) and material (organic) are two different categories of adjectives and so do not require a comma: We deliver local organic food.

I continue to be on the lookout for some signs that don’t exemplify accuracy, brevity, and clarity for an exclusive exposé on signage appearing here soon.

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Filed under coordinate and noncoordinate adjectives, signage, the royal order of adjectives, Uncategorized

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