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.

Infographic: How to Correctly List Adjectives in English Infographic Language via Facebook and GingerSoftware

About Nate Hoffelder (10025 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

2 Comments on Infographic: How to Correctly List Adjectives in English

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

  2. Burgundy please

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