Ory's writing notes: Modifiers part 1, Adjectives.

Published by OJB in the blog OJB's blog. Views: 105

Adjectives are words that modify or change a noun.

The overused and underused adjective. Adjective, as any modifier, can be a powerful tool for a writer but is sometimes misused. Before I go into what an Adjective is, I want to explain what their purpose is in terms of imagery. Every Noun in existence cast a shadow. What do I mean? All nouns have a connotation and a denotation. A Connotation is the various social overtones, cultural implementation, or emotional meaning behind the word. A denotation means its exact dictionary meaning.

An example of this would be Myrrh. Myrrh is a plant used in perfume, but some people who hear that word think of Christ's birth. This is a great example of Myrrh having a strong connotation. Adjectives can be used change the Connotation of a noun. Here in an example of Adjectives changing connotation.

An orange cat. (I think of Garfield)
A black cat. (I think of bad luck, witches, and one of Poe's stories.)

So what is an Adjective?

An Adjective is a word that answers one of the following questions about a noun.
Which one?
What kind?
How much?
How many?

Articles are adjectives (They answer the question of which one.)

A/An (A used after a hard consonant, AN used after soft consonants and vowels) means you don't know which one you are talking about.

means you do know which one you are talking about.

Sometimes words that are used in other parts of speech can be adjectives. Listed below is the different types with examples after them.

Noun: The squarial trap.
Possessive noun (Any type of possessive is an adjective): The dog's bone.
Proper noun: The Trout Stream.
Proper possessive noun: Bartlett's car.
Proper Adjective (Nationalities are Proper adjectives): The Italian man.
Demonstrative pronoun: Those apples.
Possessive pronoun: My gun.
Interrogative pronoun: Which gun.
Indefinite pronoun: Many flies.

Compound Adjectives.

A Compound adjective is made up of two or more words put together. A lot of compound adjectives are hyphenated, but some are one word or two words.

Hyphenated compound Adjectives mean that the first adjective is describing the second adjective. Here is an example from my own work.

"The piss-stained, spring-showing mattress." Piss describes stained, and spring describes what is showing. The stained and showing describes the mattress.

Also, hyphenate for the following reasons.
  1. Prefixes before capitalized words. (pro-Bush)
  2. Numbers or Letter combined with words. (A-Twenty)
  3. Prefixes with dates (Mid-90s.)
  4. Numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine.
  5. Prefixes.
  6. Fractions.
  7. Long list (I like Cheese-, salsas-, and Guacamole-flavored dips.)

Two very important rules about Hyphenated adjectives!
  1. DO NOT combine an adjective and an adverb with a hyphen.
  2. You DO NOT need to Hyphenate your adjectives if they come AFTER the noun.
Adjectives can be placed in one of three places.

Before the noun: The powerful Knight...

After the noun: The Knight, powerful,.... (You need commas).

After a linking verb: The Knight was powerful.

Adjective order.

There is an order in which Adjectives need to be listed. The order is as followed.

1. Articles. (The Bear)
2. Possessives. (My Bear)
3. Demonstratives. (That Bear)
4. Numbers. (The #3 Bear)
5. Amounts. (Those Five Bears)
6. Sequence. (The Next Bear)
7. Opinion evaluation (The cute Bear) [I am going to focus on this at the end of blog.]
8. Size (The Fat Bear)
9. Shape/Length (The Round Bear.)
10. Condition (The torn Teddy Bear.)
11. Age (The Old Bear.)
12. Color (The black Teddy Bear.
13. Pattern. (The stripped Teddy Bear.)
14. Origin (The French Teddy Bear.)
15. Material (The Slik Teddy Bear.)
16. Purpose (The therapy Teddy Bear)
17. Noun as Adjective (The Plum Tree.)


I wanted to end with my thoughts on Opinion Evaluation. Opinions as adjectives is a great way to give subtext to your Character. By expressing an opinion, we give our characters a voice. Anyone who has read my stuff knows I don't like abstractions, however, they work wonders for opinions. I want to go back to my opening line and make a little change.

Before: In a dark vestibule, cockroaches...

After: In a dark vestibule, beautiful cockroaches... Now I've added a little bit of subtext, a small window, into the speaker's mind. But to just state a cockroach is beautiful without any context would be lazy writing. I do plan on adding more to this, and showing why the character finds them beautiful, but that will be for a later blog.

In Conclusion, Adjectives can be used to give us a clear image, Identify, change connotations, or give subtext and voice to the speaker. Sometimes Adjectives are misused, when?

When they state the obvious.

Bad examples: Green leaf, white clouds, cold snow, wet water, etc.

Good examples: Purple leaf, hot snow, Green hair, etc.

Anything that would stick out to the speaker.

This ends my thoughts and notes on Adjectives. Next will be the Adverb.
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