Writing Wednesday: English Sentence Structure 101 (Take the Quiz!)

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UPDATED!

Wednesday, August 15th, 2017

We’re not the only people still being blown away by the adjective order put forth in The Elements of Eloquence. The team at Print Express recently shared with us their eight-part quiz on these unwritten rules. If you think you have word order down, this quiz is for you! You may be surprised to find what adjectives you mix up as the quiz gets harder.

Take the Quiz

You can also check out Mark Forsyth’s own thoughts on the uproar surrounding his book here.


In 2013, British author Mark Forsyth quietly published his non-fiction book The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase. Though the book was critically acclaimed, this sort of genre-specific writing doesn’t usually take the world by storm. For every Eats, Shoots and Leaves, there are countless grammar- and writing-related works that fly far under the radar.

Such was the case with Elements until September of 2016 when BBC journalist Matthew Anderson tweeted a photo from the interior of his copy:

And it went viral – seriously, people around the world were latching on to this tweet, needing to know where Anderson got his information. And once you actually read the text he shared, it’s easy to see why. In this short paragraph, Forsyth concisely captured what exactly it is that makes an English sentence make sense. Did anyone else already know this? Well, probably. But who here could have put words to this sort of innate understanding of the order of adjectives? We couldn’t have. But now that we have this list, we’ll never question our sentence structure!

Here is the breakdown:

  1. opinion
  2. size
  3. age
  4. shape
  5. colour
  6. origin
  7. material
  8. purpose
  9. noun

Using this nine-step guide, we can feel confident describing the Endpaper Blog as the best, international, years-old, rectangular, Canadian, online writing blog. Sure, we probably didn’t need all eight adjectives… but the order works!

What’s the most helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever read?

About Paperblanks: 25 years ago, we created Paperblanks to help keep book heritage alive and vital in our modern age, and to offer an inspiring space for people to express themselves. Thanks for joining us on this journey! For more about Paperblanks, go to our website at paperblanks.com.

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