Infographic: How to Correctly List Adjectives in English

Here’s a tip about the English language that native speakers learn instinctively and ESL learners have to learn the hard way.

Did you know there’s a reason that early pop song doesn’t mention a girl wearing a “yellow polka dot, itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny bikini”?

It’s because we expect the adjectives to be listed in a different order.

I don’t know if you have heard, but English has specific rules on how to string together multiple adjectives. You can’t just write them in any order; if you do then it will just sound wrong. Instead, you will need to list the adjectives in this order:

  1. Quantity or number
  2. Quality or opinion
  3. Size
  4. Age
  5. Shape
  6. Color
  7. Origin
  8. Material
  9. Purpose, or qualifier

I had heard of this rule a couple times over the years, including on a mailing list for editors. It just came across my desk again today via a FB group where the first comment was posted by someone who disputes whether  this is a valid rule or if one really had to follow it.

Before you take that position, I suggest you Google “English order of adjectives” and note how many grammar and writing sites mention this rule. Then, read the infographic below and try to list the adjectives out of order.

Your list of adjectives will sound wrong, thus confirming the rule.

via Facebook and GingerSoftware

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. tired26 June, 2018

    If you have nine adjectives in front of a noun, then you have bigger problems besides correctly ordering them!

  2. Kurt26 June, 2018

    Burgundy please

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