Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Grammar Rulz or I am a lazy writer

I am a story teller. I am not a grammar person. You know the kind who has all the rules memorized and actually knows the names of things like participle and gerund. (I bow to your knowledge and skill.)
You see, I'm more of a write-by-how-it-sounds kind of person, which means when everyone else was memorizing grammar rules I got away with just "knowing them." This means that I can easily write excellent dialog, but it also means I struggle through copy editing. On my desk are the following: "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers," Browne and King; "The AP Stylebook;" "The Chicago Manual of Style" and the "MLA Handbook." On my book shelf are at least three other books on grammar and style. I love to research and so I'd rather have the books at the ready than depend on my memorization skills. That said, I do keep an eye out for what I like to think of as "unusual" rules.
For today's blog I thought I'd share with you a cool rule that most writers intuit but don't know why. The rules for the official order of adjectives.
I know, I didn't realize there were rules. In fact one of my MFA module instructors- a multi-published author- talked about the order of adjectives based on how it sounds. He didn't know there was an official rule either. Why? Because "the large blue dinosaur just sounds more familiar, more correct, than the blue large dinosaur. So we put size before color when describing something: the gigantic green frog, the large black briefcase.
We can put together long strings of adjectives without any punctuation, as long as we follow the official order of adjectives: the valuable old green Mercedes sedan.
The order is first a, the, or a possessive such as my or Tom's. Then we put evaluation or opinion, followed by the physical description-size, shape, age, color, texture-followed by where it came from, the material it is made of, and finally it's purpose or main use. Oh, and we might have one last item before the noun: another noun that helps identify it."-note, this is taken directly from the source, but unfortunately I, thinking I would only use it for myself, did not write that source down. If you know this source, please clue me in and I'll post. Yes, I am a lazy researcher as well.
When I did an internet search looking for my source-see I did try- I discovered that there is in fact a Royal Order of adjectives. Here's a great link for more information: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/adjectives.htm Unless you teach English or are a lover of grammar rules, you may want to bookmark this.

Also for fun here's the link to the School House Rock video on adjectives: http://youtu.be/mYzGLzFuwxI
So, are you a story person or a word person?


Clarissa Draper said...

I'm like you, I never used to know why I said something but just knew it sound right. Then my editor started complaining so I decided to learn grammar. I recently discovered the order as you did. Cool!

~Sia McKye~ said...

" I'm more of a write-by-how-it-sounds kind of person, which means when everyone else was memorizing grammar rules I got away with just "knowing them."

Me, too, although I did learn the rules. Many are long forgotten, now. It's easier to remember how it should sound. It helped when that my parents spoke properly and corrected us when we didn't.

I do find that when I have to think about using proper grammar, the words don't flow smoothly. I'm too busy trying to access the rules in my head, lol! Usually, I let the words flow and then go back and check them.

I have several reference books on my shelf--just in case.

Sia McKye's Thoughts...OVER COFFEE


Linda Kage said...

Ooh, I love that rule. Never heard of it either. So sorry, I can't give you a source either. But thanks for sharing.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Clarissa, it's like relearning a foreign language, isn't it? LOL

Hi Sia, yes, always write for flow first- the edit later. Some people are so hung up on edits they never get the book done.

Hi Linda, glad you like the rule. It's kind of cool, isn't it? :) We knew it all along. Cheers~