What do you know about “little green men”? Probably more than you think.
That’s not because the aliens have wiped your memory (although they might have) it’s because, whether you know it or not, we all use something called the royal order of adjectives.
It’s the royal order of adjectives that tells us the martians are little first, green second, and men third. It’s this rule of grammar that stops us ever saying “green little men”.
Adjectives fall into categories. The royal order of adjectives dictates that these categories absolutely have to be in this order:
If you think about the last thing you wrote, you probably used the royal order of adjectives without even realising it. It’s one of those rules you know, without knowing you know it. It’s the reason there isn’t a Riding Red Little Hood.
Sometimes writers are confused about whether to use a comma to separate adjectives used to modify the same noun. To make the decision easier, remember the royal order of adjectives.
Do not use a comma to separate adjectives from different categories. So, you would write:
Do use a comma to separate adjectives in the same category. For example:
A good rule of thumb is if the adjectives can be joined by and or the order can be changed and the sentence still makes sense, use a comma. So the sentence above could also be written as either of the following:
Keep in mind that if you have a string of adjectives, you only need to separate those adjectives in the same category. So you would write:
Commas are necessary between lovely and useful, and between dark and depressing, because they are all from the opinion category of adjectives.
If you’re ever in doubt about your strings of adjectives, you need a proofreader! Get in touch with Typeset. We’d be happy to help you with your little green men.