If you can’t go easy on the adjectives, know the rules

My large,fluffy silver-tabby cat

This is my cat who goes by the somewhat unimaginative name of Kitten. He does have another name, but we became so used to saying “where’s the kitten” or “look what the kitten is doing now”, that the word ‘Kitten’ just ending up sticking as his name.

If I didn’t have the photo, and wanted to describe him, I would say he is a large, fluffy, silver-tabby cat, and by ordering the adjectives as I have, I have unconsciously followed the grammatical rule as to the order of adjectives.

Yes, there is a rule as to how adjectives should be ordered, a fact which comes as a surprise to many native speakers. We follow it without even thinking about it, as we just know what sounds right!

Try mixing up the description of my cat and you will see what I mean. If I said I had a silver-tabby, large, fluffy cat the sentence would sound decidedly odd. 

For the record, the order is opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose noun. If I want to describe my chopping board using a whopping eight adjectives the sentence would read:-

I have a beautiful, large, old, round, grey, Tasmanian, wooden chopping board.

Try swapping those adjectives around. See? The more adjectives you use, the wackier your sentence is going to sound, if  you don’t follow the rules.

Of course, the first bit of advice you will get in any Creative Writing 101 class is ‘go easy on the adjectives.’ Less is so often more.

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