Whether you are wanting to self-publish your writing or land a publishing contract, you will want to polish your prose in during your editing. One of the many important items to check is to see how many adjectives you are using together, and in what order they appear in your writing.
If you are sure you cannot use another word or phrase in place of your adjectives, then by all means use them. Here is the correct way to order your adjectives, as well as some comma hints.
Believe it or not there is a Royal Order of Adjectives that dictates what order adjectives are to be used in written English. If you are a native born English speaker than you probably use this order without realizing it. If however, English is your second language, you may have wondered why you keep reading sentences like this: “The shiny new red truck.” Instead of: “The red new shiny truck.”
To a nonnative English speaker the second sentence makes more sense. However, because of the Royal Order of Adjectives the first sentence is what you should use in your writing. Here is Royal Order list followed by a comma usage hint.
The Royal Order of Adjectives
1. Determiners: articles and other limiters. (the computer, your hat).
2. Observation: beautiful, interesting, a real idol, an inexpensive toy. (can also be an opinion).
3. Size and Shape: thin, fat, round, wealthy, large.
4. Age: ancient, new, old, young.
5. Color: blue, white, pink, purple.
6. Origin: American, Swedish, Canadian.
7. Material: wooden, metallic, silk, cotton, woolen. This describes what something is made of.
8. Qualifier: last adjective used. Often an integral part of a noun. Book cover, rocking chair, wedding gown, hunting lodge.
By keeping your adjectives in their proper order you help your readers understand what you are trying to say. It will also help you to make a good impression when sending your writing to a literary agent or publisher. Fixing these items in your editing process saves publishers and agents a lot of extra editing time.
Comma usage with the Royal Order of Adjectives.
If you use two adjectives from the same category, you would use a comma to separate them.
For example: “The actor wore a sequin, beaded dress.” The words sequin and beaded both come from the “materials” category of adjectives. Therefore, you would separate them with a comma.
If however you were using adjectives from different categories you would not need to use a comma.
For example: “The actor wore a new yellow sequin, beaded dress.” Notice the comma is only used in between the adjectives that are from the same category.
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