Technical Tuesday: Adjectives

Adjectives: a word...(that) typically serves as a modifier of a noun to denote the quality of the thing named, to indicate quantity or extent, or to specify a thing as distinct from something else.  (Merriam-Webster.com, retrieved March 4, 2019) 

In other words adjectives are words that describe, modify or limit nouns and pronouns. These are classic descriptors, words like red and green, big and small, many and few. And using them typically comes as naturally to a native speaker as breathing.

There are a few rules concerning adjectives. Specifically the Royal Order of Adjectives (and where I disagree)

1  Opinion - pretty,
2  Size -little, big,
3  Physical Quality - smooth, rough,
4  Shape - round, triangular,
5  Age - young, old
6  Color - blue, green
7  Origin - English, American
8  Material - steel, plastic
9  Type - general purpose,
10 Purpose - cleaning,

I absolutely hate this one. And I would never use age after shape. I would never write, that's a pretty little triangular old green American boat. I would say that's an old, triangular boat. That's an old square boat. I don't think I would use age, shape and color in a single description. This is a personal preference, there aren't any rules. There is a rhythmic style of twos and threes that just makes something sound better.

So if you were going to describe, let's say a table, a rhythm of twos or threes sounds better than fours or fives.

So

A pretty green plastic table.

sounds better than

A pretty round green plastic table.

The latter is too long.

And does a

A pretty green table,

A pretty plastic table.

or

A green plastic table

sound even better?

I would say in this case the rhythm of twos sounds the best. Your conclusion may differ. The important thing is to pick your descriptors carefully. Keep the ones that are necessary, augment them with ones that evoke something less concrete to make your sentences sing.

Enjoy.

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