For all you serious language mechanics out there, here, from Mark Forsyth’s The Elements of Eloquence, is a reminder that, in English, adjectives go in this order:

Opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose-noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac.

And also, as a reminder that every author needs an editor, here is one page of T.S. Eliot’s original draft of “The Waste Land” as edited by Ezra Pound (1915):

Wasteland edit by Ezra Pound

3 thoughts on “Reminders

  1. I’ve never heard this rule before, yet you’re right, scrambling the adjectives makes it just…off. What’s more interesting is–why (or how) are we wired to detect the ‘proper’ order?


    • Of course, this is just for English. Then there are languages like Samoan, in which the adjective follows the noun, and I have no idea what, if any, positional rules apply. And is it really a “rule” if we don’t know we are following it? I mean, driving on the right side of the road is a rule, but is breathing?


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