Adjective Order


I never knew this, but I find it fascinating. I can think of a few more exceptions to the rule, but in general he is correct–we all subconsciously put words in this sequence, I assume because that’s how we heard and learned them when we learned to talk and read.

From The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase by Mark Forsyth  (2013)

Adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order:

Opinion–size–age–shape–color–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 sound like a maniac. It’s an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out. And as size comes before color, green great dragons can’t exist.

A beautiful large older yellow chaise lounge, NOT a yellow older beautiful large chaise lounge.

Of course, there are exceptions, phrases that have become standard: Big, bad wolf is size then opinion.


I’m clearing out old files on my laptop, and came across this list from several years ago. The editors I worked with had listed the funniest “that’s not what the author intended” typos they’d seen in books they were editing. Enjoy!

The heroine was a “wonton hussy”. (Ah, yes—a lover of Asian food.)

The hero reaches down to “adjust the bugle in his jeans”. (I’m just imagining his pants busting out with Reveille!)

He shitted in the saddle as he stared down at her. (Eww, I hope there’s some good saddle soap handy.)

We’d run pilot training flights over the dessert. (Mmm….pie…)

She put on her fury robe. (Now you know she’s mad!)

You’ve done an admiral job protecting her reputation. (Naval protection?)

The dress was “complimented” by a bright ribbon. (Picturing the ribbon saying “Hey, nice dress.”)

Going without underwear is NOT “going cammo”. (Green and black face paint?)

The pond was teaming with fish. (Imagining fishy sports.)

The earl stepped into the antichamber. (Regency England meets Star Trek?)

The characters have lunch at the “Diary Queen”.

Rivets of sweat ran down his torso. (Metal items rolling down his chest.)

His thumb pressed gently against her juggler vein. (And was there a clown present too?)

There was someone out there willing to act out even the most bazaar of fantasies.

For the first time since her bazaar journey started, she thought she might be able to adjust. (Visiting markets around the world, is she?)

She shuddered as her organism washed over her. (Don’t wanna know what little critters are involved here.)

Grammar Genius

“Only an Actual Grammar Genius Will Totally Ace This Quiz” on BuzzFeed Books

Try this fun test.

I got 14 of 15 correct. Result: “Hey, you’re really good with words! What are you some kinda genius or something? Nice going!” Yes, I am good with words – I’m a constant reader and an excellent editor.

Bonus Content


Website Bonus Content Brings in the Readers!

This is something I bring up with authors a lot. You MUST have a website or blog, and you must keep it active, post new material. So what can you be putting out that will bring fans back to your site frequently? This article by Liz Edelstein at The Verbs suggests your bonus content can be:

  • Deleted scenes
  • Behind-the-scenes scoop
  • Series FAQ, relationship trees, and/or character interviews
  • Short stories or bridge stories
  • Teaser preview material

Oh, and not mentioned in the article, but don’t forget to have an e-newsletter to let your fans know about the new material on your site. Studies have shown over and over that the best way to reach people is by direct email.

Turn Your Website Up To 11 (with Bonus Content)

Turn Your Website Up to 11 (With Bonus Content)



This is something I talked to authors about a lot when they would suggest or submit a co-written book. That can be great for your inspiration and productivity and fresh voice, but it also entails a LOT of potential problems.

Do your writing techniques mesh? Can you handle blunt critiquing from your partner and others? What if you have major disagreements about the story or anything else? Who’s doing which tasks, not just in writing but all the related stuff–social media, marketing, contacting reviewers, and on and on? And who’s paying for that, or for an editor or cover artist? For that matter, how are you splitting the income? If one of you does more work than the other or takes on expenses, does that person get paid first out of income or get a bigger percentage?

And what about some catastrophic illness (or even death) that may prevent your co-author from completing her or his part of the project? What about the future–who inherits the rights eventually?

So before you and your best friend jump into that joint book, read this article and discuss all the points with each other. Or I guarantee you most likely will not be best friends by the time the book is done–if it ever is.

Co-Authors: Before You Tie the Knot

“The best way to improve the odds of a successful writing partnership is to take the time to put the collaboration agreement in writing up front.”