If you want to add a little spice and flair to your writing, adjectives can make a dull sentence come alive. Most of us use adjectives quite naturally when we speak, so incorporating them into your writing should come naturally as well.

However, you need to keep in mind that adjectives are delicate things. Don’t over use them. Nouns and verbs should carry the brunt of the work in descriptive writing. This is especially true of adjectives like “beautiful, exciting, and interesting” which don’t really tell us much. It’s up to the writer to create excitement, interest, and beauty with their words. You can’t just insist on their presence by simply stating it. These things must be shown.

What are adjectives?

Adjectives are words that modify – that is describe, quantify, or identify – a noun or pronoun. The purpose is to give more information so that the author’s meaning is clear to the reader. For example:

The girl sat in the back row.

The wretched girl sat in the back row.

In the first sentence the noun “girl” doesn’t really give us much information. We don’t know anything about her; we just know there is a girl sitting in the back row. Is she tall, thin, small, large, happy, or sad? Is she from another planet? We don’t know.

But in the second sentence the word “wretched” is an adjective that describes the noun “girl.” Suddenly, we get a different mental picture when we read the sentence.

Examples of adjectives

Here are more sentence examples using adjectives that describe, quantify, or identify. In each sentence, the adjective is italicized.

The star-shaped kite glided through the air.

Jennifer covered her bedroom walls with neon green paint.

The racing boat zoomed over the calm surface of the lake.

The cave was dark and cold.

Many fans turned out for the big championship game.

The cracked vase set on the dusty shelf.

The back of the closet was littered with old, discarded clothes.

Our adventurous tour guide led us up the rocky, mountainous path.

Martin felt embarrassed by his explosive tantrum.

The tiara was adorned with sparkling jewels.

Tips for using adjectives

1. Use two or more descriptive adjectives together to further describe the noun in the sentence.

The large fluffy gray cat perched on the windowsill.

2. When using more than one descriptive adjective, there is a generally accepted order to follow: size/age/shape/color/nationality/material.

The large, old, fluffy, gray cat perched on the windowsill.

3. General opinion adjectives should be placed before specific opinion adjectives.

The attractive, brilliant singer received a standing ovation.

4. When writing similar adjectives, separate each word with a comma.

It was a bright, sunshiny day.

If the adjectives have different meanings, don’t use a comma.

It was a bright fun-filled day.

5. Adjectives usually come just before the noun in a sentence. However, in some cases the adjective can follow the noun is a verb precedes it.

The day is bright.

Here the adjective “bright” is at the end of the sentence, not before the noun, but follows the verb “is.”

6. Some nouns can be transformed to adjectives by adding a suffix. The noun “danger” is changed to the adjective “dangerous” when the suffix “-ous” is added. Other suffixes that can create adjectives from nouns are “-ly, -ic, -like, -ish, -al.”

Love – lovely

Child – childlike

Acid – acidic

Sheep – sheepish

Nation – national

The proper use of adjectives adds the right amount of spice and clarity to your writing. Don’t hesitate to use adjectives, but use them wisely to help create vibrant, descriptive pictures with your words.