Thursday, February 20, 2014

Adjectives out of Order

Typically, when we use adjectives, we place them before the noun. 

Like this:
"I respond, but really I'm thinking about Plutarch showing off his pretty, one-of-a-kind watch to me" (Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire, 83).

Is it possible to place them after the noun?

In Harry Noden's Image Grammar, he talks about five brushstrokes to add power to writing. One of them is Adjectives out of Order, a tool writers use to vary the rhythm of their sentences and to give emphasis to the adjectives.

When writers shift adjectives behind the noun, they make possible a third adjective. So, instead of writing, "The elderly, tired, unsure woman shuffled to the counter," they write, "The elderly woman, tired and unsure, shuffled to the counter."

Notice in the examples below that commas surround the adjectives, unless they are at the end of the sentence in which case they are preceded by a comma.

Khaled Hosseini uses Adjectives out of Order often.
"I sat in the back row, carsick and dizzy, sandwiched between the seven-year-old twins who kept reaching over my lap to slap at each other" (Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner, 83).
"The wind, soft and cold, clicked through tree branches and stirred the bushes that sprinkled the slope" (Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner, 112).
"Words were exchanged, brief and hushed" (Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner, 114).
"He'd sit at the kitchen table with his flyswatter, watch the flies darting from wall to wall, buzzing here, buzzing there, harried and rushed" (Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner, 366).
"His hair, short and brown, stood on his scalp like needles in a pincushion" (Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns, 183). 
"Classy prose does not leap, complete and fully formed, from anyone's typewriter or computer or quill pen" (Patricia T. O'Conner, Words Fail Me, 38).
"She was very tall for a woman, slender and graceful, and moved slowly down the gangplank with the stately self-consciousness which happened to be the fashionable gait for a lady at the moment" (Esther Forbes, Johnny Tremain, 54). 
"The April sun, weak but determined, shone through a castle window and from there squeezed itself through a small hole in the wall and placed one golden finger on the little mouse" (Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux, 13). 

If you'd like your students to focus on Adjectives out of Order, you'll find a thorough resource here.

For more mentor texts, go here.

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