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Find just the right spot for adjectives

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Writers often use multiple adjectives to get their point across when describing something, but what many people don’t realize is that there is a general order in which to place adjectives. Mignon Fogarty, writing at QuickAndDirtyTips.com, explains the quasi-official order for adjectives.

Opinion. If using an opinion word, put it first in your lineup of adjectives. Opinion words include “ugly,” “beautiful,” etc.

Size. Next you can suggest size by using words like “big” or “little.”

Age. Words such as “young” and “old” would come third in the adjective lineup.

Shape. “Square,” “round” and “triangular” are all words that would apply to shape, which comes fourth in the adjective order.

Color. Use colors, such as “black,” “pink,” “orange,” etc., fifth in your adjective order.

Origin. Show someone’s or something’s origin by using words like “British” or “American” sixth in the adjective lineup.

Material. Explain an object’s material using words like “metal,” “Styrofoam” or “plastic” seventh in the lineup of adjectives.

Purpose. Tell the audience the purpose of the noun last in the lineup. Examples include “swimming” in the phrase “swimming pool” or “sewing” in “sewing machine.”

Exceptions. These guidelines do come with exceptions, because oftentimes physical descriptions (size, age, shape and color) can be mixed around to make the sentence sound better. For example, the guidelines suggest a sentence should read “The old round vase,” but it’s fine with words shifted somewhat—for example, “The round old vase.”

— Adapted from “Order of Adjectives,” Mignon Fogarty, QuickAndDirtyTips.com.

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