Understanding Adjectives: Making Your Sentences More Descriptive

How important are adjectives in writing? Adjectives are like the spices of writing because they add flavour and depth to your sentence. They make your writing more interesting and vivid.

In this blog, we’ll dive into the world of adjectives, breaking down what they are and how to use them effectively

Adjectives are words that describe or modify nouns. They give us information about a noun’s characteristics. Think of them as paintbrushes used to add colour to your sentences.

♦ For example, in the phrase “a happy dog,” “happy” is the adjective describing the dog’s emotion.

Why are Adjectives Important?

Adjectives play a crucial role in fiction writing for several reasons.

♦ The noun “box”, includes a great variety of objects.
♦ If we say wooden box, we exclude boxes of metal, of paper, etc.
♦ If we use a second adjective (small) and a third (square), we limit the size and the shape of the box.

Let’s explore why they are so important:

Vivid Descriptions

Descriptive words bring the story to life. They allow you to write detailed images of characters, settings, and objects. For instance, instead of saying “a house,” you can say “a quaint, old cottage nestled among towering oak trees.” This enables your readers to visualize a specific place instantly.

Character Development

Adjectives can characterize people or things. When we describe a character as “brave,” “kind,” or “mysterious,” we get a peek into their personality and what they’re after. Based on these descriptions, your readers can form emotional connections with the character

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Setting the Atmosphere

Adjectives create the mood for your story. If you want to make a creepy forest or a peaceful meadow, adjectives are your friends.

Reader Engagement and Immersion

You want to use descriptive words to hook your reader. By your descriptions, they can feel the warmth of the “soft, golden sand” beneath their feet or the chill of the “icy, winter wind” on their skin. Your story comes alive when readers can experience it.


Adjectives can make a big difference in your story. If you’ve got a bunch of things that seem the same, adjectives can help set them apart. For example, in a story with several red roses, you can use adjectives like “vibrant,” “faded,” or “blood-red” to make each rose unique.

Show, Don’t Tell

A fundamental rule of storytelling is to “show” rather than “tell.” Adjectives allow you to show readers what’s happening or how characters are acting, rather than simply telling them. Instead of saying a character is “nervous,” you can show it with “trembling hands” or “stuttering speech.”

In essence, adjectives make a writer’s story more colourful and interesting. But, don’t go overboard with adjectives or your writing will get messy.

Types of Adjectives

Adjectives come in various types, each serving a specific purpose in describing nouns. Here are some common types of adjectives.

Descriptive Adjectives

These are the most common type of adjectives. They describe the qualities or characteristics (appearance, size, shape) of a noun.

Beautiful sunset
Sunny day
Tall tree
Blue sky

Demonstrative Adjectives

Demonstrative adjectives show which noun you are talking about.

This book
That car
These flowers
Those cookies

Quantitative Adjectives

These adjectives provide information about the quantity or amount of a noun.

Many friends
Few opportunities
Several options

Possessive Adjectives

These adjectives show ownership or possession

My book
His hat
Their house

Interrogative Adjectives

These adjectives are used to ask questions about a noun.

Which book do you prefer?
What movie are we watching?
Whose bag is this?

Indefinite Adjectives

These adjectives do not specify a particular noun. So we use them when the noun is unknown or not important.

Some cookies
All students
No problem

Numeral Adjectives/Quantifying Adjectives

Numeral adjectives show the number or order of a noun. They can be further divided into:

Cardinal Numbers: These show quantity.

♦ one, two, three apples

Ordinal Numbers: These show the order of something.

♦ first, second, third place

Proper Adjectives

These describing words come from names of people, places, or things and start with a capital letter.

American culture
Shakespearean sonnets
French cuisine

Note. Many so-called proper adjectives begin with a small letter because their origin is forgotten or disregarded.

♦ china dishes, italic type, mesmeric power, a jovial air, a saturnine expression, a mercurial temperament, a stentorian voice.

Compound Adjectives

By combining two or more words with a hyphen, we make compound adjectives. They often work together to describe a noun.

Well-known author
High-tech gadget
Two-year-old child

Emphasizing Adjectives

These adjectives are used to add emphasis or intensity to a noun.

Absolute genius
♦ Utter chaos
♦ Sheer determination

Vary your adjective use to make your writing more descriptive and interesting.

Classifying Adjectives

We can group adjectives into three types: attributive, appositive, and predicate.

Attributive Adjective

An attributive adjective regularly precedes the noun (it is attached to).

Blue car:
Delicious pizza
Cozy blanket

Appositive Adjective

To explain a noun, you add an appositive adjective.

♦ My friend John, a talented musician, will perform tonight.
♦ The car, a classic Mustang, roared down the highway.
♦ The author, famous for her novels, gave a talk at the bookstore.

Predicate Adjective

When you use a predicate adjective, it finishes off the predicate verb and puts a description or limit on the subject.

♦ She felt happy after receiving the good news.
♦ The soup smells delicious.
♦ His performance was outstanding during the competition.

How to Use Adjectives

To use adjectives effectively, you should know where to put them in a sentence. Here’s a quick guide:

1. Put adjectives before the noun they describe.

♦ “a red apple” not “an apple red.”

 2. Follow the order of adjectives (see the section below for a full explanation)

♦ “a small, round, red ball” sounds better than “a red, round, small ball.

3. Don’t overload your sentences with adjectives.

♦ The majestic, towering, ancient, mysterious, enchanted, silvery, moonlit castle stood at the distant, foreboding, mist-covered, shadowy, unseen, hauntingly, whispering, long-forgotten edge of the dark, twisted, forbidding forest.

Might be better as

♦ The ancient castle stood at the edge of the mist-covered forest, illuminated by the silvery moonlight.

The Standard Order of Adjectives

In English, we have a way of ordering adjectives so things don’t get confusing. So, adjectives usually go in this order:

1. Opinion

Adjectives that express an opinion or evaluation come first. These adjectives describe what someone thinks about the noun.

♦ beautiful
♦ ugly
♦ good
♦ bad
♦ delicious
♦ horrible

2. Size

When describing size or measurement, use adjectives after opinion words. These adjectives describe how large or small something is.

♦ large
♦ small
♦ tiny
♦ huge
♦ tall,
♦ short

3. Age

Adjectives showing age come after size adjectives. These adjectives convey how old the noun is.

♦ young
♦ old
♦ ancient
♦ new
♦ antique
♦ modern

4. Shape

Shape adjectives follow age. These adjectives provide information about the form or contour of the noun

♦ round
♦ square
♦ oval
♦ triangular
♦ cylindrical

5. Color

Color adjectives follow the shape ones. These adjectives specify the color of the noun.

♦ red
♦ blue
♦ green
♦ yellow
♦ purple

6. Origin

The colour adjectives are followed by adjectives that describe the noun’s origin or source. These adjectives describe where the noun comes from or its cultural or geographical association.

♦ Italian
♦ Japanese
♦ African
♦ American
♦ French

7. Material

Next comes the adjectives that describe the material or composition of the noun. These words describe the material used to make the noun.

♦ wooden
♦ metallic
♦ plastic
♦ glass
♦ cotton

8. Purpose

The adjectives that indicate the purpose or function of the noun are placed at the end.

♦ cooking
♦ gardening
♦ sleeping
♦ writing
♦ fishing

Keep in mind that, just like everything else, there are exceptions to the rules. Not all adjectives need to be used in this order, and you certainly don’t need to use all eight types of adjectives to describe a noun. The purpose of the order is to provide clarity and coherence in descriptions, but you can adjust it for stylistic or contextual reasons.

Examples of Creative Adjective Use

As mentioned before, adjectives are like the spices of writing because they add flavour and depth to a sentence. Here’s how a few authors used creative adjectives:

Mrs. Dalloway

Virginia Woolf uses “perpetual sense” and “very, very dangerous” to show how the main character feels all alone in a busy city.

♦ She had the perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day.

Fahrenheit 451

Bradbury’s “really bothered” shows the importance of feeling and thinking in a society that avoids discomfort.

♦ We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?


George Orwell’s use of “striking thirteen” creates an eerie sense of disorientation, hinting at the dystopian world of the novel.

♦ It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

To Kill a Mockingbird

The town feels worn and weary thanks to Harper Lee’s “tired old town,” which sets the story’s tone.

♦ Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it.

The Old Man and the Sea

Ernest Hemingway uses “cheerful and undefeated” to show that Santiago is strong despite his old age.

♦ Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.

10 Tips for Understanding Adjectives

Here are 10 tips for using adjectives effectively in your writing:

1. Pick Key Adjectives: Pick the key adjectives to get your message across and drop the extra ones.
2. Avoid Redundant Adjectives: Select adjectives that add new or distinct information. For example, instead of “hot sun,” use “scorching sun” for added emphasis.
3. Use Precise Adjectives: Opt for precise adjectives that provide a clear picture. Instead of “nice car,” use “luxurious car” or “vintage car” for more detail.

4. Try Strong Adjectives: Replace weak adjectives with stronger, more vivid ones. Instead of “good food,” use “delectable cuisine.”
5. Watch for Misplaced Adjectives: Make sure you put adjectives before the noun they describe.
6. Avoid Adjective Stacking: Follow the standard order of adjectives for clarity: opinion, size, age, shape, colour, origin, material, and purpose.

7. Use Descriptive Adjectives: Select adjectives that create sensory experiences and help readers connect with your descriptions.
8. Avoid Repetition: Mix it up by using different words or finding other ways to describe things.
9. Use Imagery: Choose adjectives that evoke sensory experiences, allowing readers to visualize and connect with your descriptions.
10. Keep a Consistent Tone: Maintain a consistent tone throughout your piece by using adjectives that fit the overall mood and style.

Last Words on Understanding Adjectives

Adjectives are your writing sidekicks, helping you add depth and detail to your stories, essays, or blogs. With a good understanding of their types and usage, you can make your sentences more descriptive and engaging. So, paint your writing with the colours of adjectives!


Feature Image by Chil Vera from Pixabay



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