Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

New word order

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Maybe I skipped class the day this was covered. There’s an accepted order for the adjectives you stack up in front of a noun! Who knew?

The natural order (to our Occidental ears, anyway) is: opinion or judgment, size, age, shape, color, nationality, material, and purpose or qualifier.

Now, I bet we could come up with combos that don’t sound very good even though they adhere to the rule, so this is probably more of a guideline than carved in serious massive ancient irregular gray Tibetan granite milling stone.

To be honest, I hardly ever pile up more than a couple of adjectives before a noun, if only because there are usually better ways of describing something. I suppose if you absolutely must get the complete essence of an object into one sentence, this rule will come in handy.

Another way to deal with it, though, is to mess around with the adjectives until they sound right. After all, we have to think about rhythm as well as function, and if your exquisite rule-based arrangement is clunky, readers won’t care that the sentence is correct.

This has been another unsolicited grammar tip from What The Hell.

You’re welcome.

4 comments on “New word order

  1. Dave
    April 17, 2014

    Nice grammar tip. I stick to this method you mentioned above:
    “Another way to deal with it, though, is to mess around with the adjectives until they sound right.”


    • Kevin Brennan
      April 17, 2014

      Whatever works, right? Sometimes rules just document what people are already doing…

  2. sknicholls
    April 17, 2014

    Rules. Some are just ridiculous IMHO I am not just saying that because I am a rebel. it’s just so. I am going to jot this down on my list of rules to not worry about violating. With a list of adjectives that long your prose would be black not purple.

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 18, 2014

      It does seem like a rule that shouldn’t come into play very often…

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This entry was posted on April 17, 2014 by in Writing and tagged , .
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