Is there some better way to punctuate the following sentence?

He would sit in his office daydreaming about white-sand beaches, clear blue ocean water, and drinks with little paper umbrellas in them.
In particular, I'm wondering if "clear blue ocean water" is okay. My copy editor changed it to "clear-blue ocean water" which seems just wrong since "clear" and "blue" are separate adjectives, not a composite the way "white-sand" is. Thoughts?
-Peter

Peter Seibel (Email Removed)

Lisp is the red pill. John Fraser, comp.lang.lisp
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Peter Seibel wrote on 16 Jan 2005:
Is there some better way to punctuate the following sentence? He would sit in his office daydreaming about white-sand beaches, ... water" which seems just wrong since "clear" and "blue" are separate adjectives, not a composite the way "white-sand" is. Thoughts?

Your copy editor has a point, but the wrong answer, I think. It should be either "clear-blue" or "clear, blue". Unlike "white" and "sand", the first of which is an adjective that modifies the second, a noun, while the combined word "white-sand" modifies "beaches". "Clear" and "blue", on the other hand, are both adjectives that modify the noun "ocean water".
I would use the comma rather than the hyphen because it tells the reader that the water is both "clear" and "blue" which is what you want to say while the version with the hyphen says that the water is "clear blue" rather than "south sea island blue" or "cerulean blue" or "murky blue".

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Peter Seibel wrote on 16 Jan 2005:

Is there some better way to punctuate the following sentence? ... separate adjectives, not a composite the way "white-sand" is. Thoughts?

Your copy editor has a point, but the wrong answer, I think. It should be either "clear-blue" or "clear, blue". ... hyphen says that the water is "clear blue" rather than "south sea island blue" or "cerulean blue" or "murky blue".

So you'd punctuate the whole sentence this?
He would sit in his office daydreaming about white-sand beaches, clear, blue, ocean water, and drinks with little paper umbrellas in them.
That looks strange to me because it could be read as a list of five items:
- white-sand beaches
- clear
- blue
- ocean water
- drinks with little paper umbrellas in them
And for that matter, why not "little, paper umbrellas"?

-Peter

Peter Seibel (Email Removed)

Lisp is the red pill. John Fraser, comp.lang.lisp
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Is there some better way to punctuate the following sentence? He would sit in his office daydreaming about white-sand beaches, ... water" which seems just wrong since "clear" and "blue" are separate adjectives, not a composite the way "white-sand" is. Thoughts?

I agree with Ed. The hyphen is needed to convince the reader that all those adjectives do indeed modify "ocean water". It's either that or "clear, blue, ocean water."

dg (domain=ccwebster)
Your copy editor has a point, but the wrong answer, ... "south sea island blue" or "cerulean blue" or "murky blue".

So you'd punctuate the whole sentence this? He would sit in his office daydreaming about white-sand beaches, clear, blue, ocean water, and drinks with little paper umbrellas in them.

No, leave out the one after "blue".

Skitt (in Hayward, California)
www.geocities.com/opus731/
Is there some better way to punctuate the following sentence? He would sit in his office daydreaming about white-sand beaches, clear blueocean water, and drinks >with little paper umbrellas in them.

I did not find any resource that required "white sand" to be hyphenated. Apparently it has become a noun popular enough to have transcended the hyphen, yet not popular enough to appear on OneLook.

http://www.south-seas-adventures.com/Gallery/South Pacific Beaches 1/image003.htm http://www.keylargoresort.com/WKL-ipix-beach.html
http://www.sease.com/regina/hawaiibeaches.html
Contrary to your proposal, you would not use a comma after "blue." I wouldn't hyphenate "clear-blue" for a couple of reasons. I think it throws the rhythm of the sentence off by hurrying the reader through the two words. This is not a sentence about hurrying. Also, most of the usages of "clear blue" found by Google didn't even use a comma, let alone a hyphen. Perhaps "clear blue" has become an unofficial noun as well. Dictionaries hyphenate "sky-blue" so perhaps you should hyphenate if the ocean water is "clear-blue." If the ocean water is "clear" and blue, use a comma.

He would sit in his office daydreaming about white sand beaches, clear, blue ocean water, and drinks with little paper umbrellas in them.

Or
Sitting in his office, he would daydream about white sand beaches, clear, blue ocean water, and drinks served with little paper umbrellas.

I might even get rid of the "sitting."
In his office he would daydream...
He would daydream in his office, always of white sand beaches, clear, blue ocean water, and drinks served with little paper umbrellas.
Actually, "clear" and "blue" are so frequently seen together they are almost a cliche. On the other hand, you seem to be going for a cliche sort of imagery, so that may work for you.
Mike
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Is there some better way to punctuate the following sentence? ... separate adjectives, not a composite the way "white-sand" is. Thoughts?

I agree with Ed. The hyphen is needed to convince the reader that all those adjectives do indeed modify "ocean water". It's either that or "clear, blue, ocean water."

Some digging around my library and on the web, turns up this rule:

Commas are used to separate coordinate adjectives but not cummulative adjectives.
One web page(1) I found, provides this two-part test for whether a series of adjectives are coordinate:
(1) Can you replace the comma with the word and?
(2) Can you reverse the order of the adjectives and keep the same meaning?

So let's test "clear, blue, ocean water"
"clear and blue and ocean water"
Nope.
"ocean, blue, clear water"
Nope.
So I'd say "clear blue ocean water" is properly punctuated without commas.
-Peter
(1)

Peter Seibel (Email Removed)

Lisp is the red pill. John Fraser, comp.lang.lisp
Is there some better way to punctuate the following sentence? ... separate adjectives, not a composite the way "white-sand" is. Thoughts?

I agree with Ed. The hyphen is needed to convince the reader that all those adjectives do indeed modify "ocean water". It's either that or "clear, blue, ocean water."

I disagree with Ed. I think the OP was on the right track. But then I'm a student of the Pause School of Commas (Kings English), and not a speaker of StAlbE.

Steny '08!
Some digging around my library and on the web, turns up this rule: Commas are used to separate coordinate adjectives ... adjectives and keep the same meaning? So let's test "clear, blue, ocean water" "clear and blue and ocean water" Nope.

But "clear and blue ocean water" works.
"ocean, blue, clear water" Nope. So I'd say "clear blue ocean water" is properly punctuated without commas. (1)

No. It should be "clear, blue ocean water" per what I wrote above.

5. Use a comma to separate coordinate adjectives. You could think of this as"That tall, distinguished, good looking fellow" rule (as opposed to "the little old lady"). If you can put an and or a but between the adjectives, a comma will probably belong there. For instance, you could say, "He is a tall and distinguished fellow" or "I live in a very old and run-down house." So you would write, "He is a tall, distinguished man" and "I live in a very old, run-down house." But you would probably not say, "She is a little and old lady," or "I live in a little and purple house," so commas would not appear between little and old or between little and purple.
Skitt (in Hayward, California)
www.geocities.com/opus731/
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