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Writing To Order

By Ruth Barringham

A few days ago I was reading about how we always say and write things in a certain order and there seems to be no reason how this ever came about, yet it's a standard we all stick to. So I thought I'd share it with you because I found it really interesting.

Have you ever noticed that when we write or talk about things, we do it in a particular order?

I hadn't.

Yet not only do we do it without thinking, but we never change it.

What I'm talking about is when we use multiple adjectives to describe something. There is always an order of description that all English speakers never vary.

And the order is this:

Opinion - size - age - shape - colour - origin - material - purpose.

Of course we don't use all of these all the time, but we always stick to the order.

For instance, when we say 'sweet, little, old lady,' the description of the lady is 'opinion-size-age.'

Or 'a French, bronze, whittling knife,' which is origin-material-purpose.

There is also a certain order of vowels that we use which are:

I A O

So for instance, we always say flip-flop, never flop-flip. Or how about ding-dong or bish-bash-bosh.

Why do we do this?

No one really knows but it's most likely because things are easier to understand this way, or, most likely, because it feels comfortable.

So if you're ever unsure when you're writing multiple adjectives to describe something (or someone), if in doubt, use the tried and trusted order to make sure everyone understands and your writing flows.


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