This is a super-duper hard rocking article by a young erudite Hydra editor by the gloriously succinct name of Josiah Davis. And it’s about adjective use. Go figure. It is part three of a five-part series.


Buckle up, friends, because we’re here now with part three of the five-part series, Getting Your Manuscript Ready for Editing.

We’ve already addressed consistency and punctuation, so what’s next? Adjectives. This is something that a lot of people struggle with, mainly because most individuals weren’t taught the exact rules of proper adjective use in school.  If I were to ask you when you’re supposed to put a comma in between adjectives, your answer would most likely be something along the lines of “When there’s more than two adjectives.”  That’s all well and good, but why? It all comes down to the type of adjective that’s being used. Say I gave you two examples. “the heavy, bulky box,” and “the exquisite custom houseboat.” Well, why is there a comma in the first example but not the second? I don’t think anyone would argue that they both look correct. But you need to make sure you know why they’re correct. The first is a coordinate adjective, while the second is cumulative. The first two words can be separated by the word “and,” whereas in the second example the words need to go in that order, because the first word modifies the second. Start going through your manuscript and making sure that you have commas between your coordinate adjectives but not your cumulative ones.

Still reading this? How about a little bonus. Do you know that there’s a specific order of adjectives you have to follow? You do? Then you’re ahead of nearly every native English speaker out there. This is something most people aren’t taught in school, though we tend to do it inherently. Here’s what I mean:

If I were to say that I had a “lovely, little, old, rectangular, green, French, silver whittling knife,” then someone knows exactly what I’m talking about. What if I said I had a “silver, rectangular, lovely, old, French, whittling green knife”? You’d tell me I was crazy, and for good reason. There’s a specific order of adjectives that must be followed, otherwise the description just sounds wrong. So when you’re going through your manuscript, make sure all of your descriptions are in the order of: opinion-size-age-shape-color-origin-material-purpose noun. If you do that, then your neighbors won’t attempt to lock you up for being a crazy person…well, at least I hope they won’t.

Stay tuned for part four coming soon.

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