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If I am writing a sentence where both a noun and an adjective are used as modifiers, shall I write first the adjective, or the noun?

It's a nice C code snippet.
(?) It's a C nice code snippet.

Is the same "rule" valid for the following sentence?

Reserved SQL keywords are written in uppercase.
SQL reserved keywords are written in uppercase.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

In all of the cases that you mention above, the noun in apposition should come nearest to the head noun.

It's a nice C code snippet.

Reserved SQL keywords are written in uppercase.

This example is completely ungrammatical:

! It's a C nice code snippet. [Incorrect]

Your second example is grammatical both ways, but there is a subtle difference in meaning, because the sentences are parsed in different ways:

{Reserved {SQL keywords}} are written in uppercase.

{{SQL reserved} keywords} are written in uppercase.

Because nouns must appear closer to the head than adjectives, the entire phrase "SQL reserved" in the second example is parsed as a noun phrase modifying "keywords".

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I would parse the second sentence as: "{SQL {reserved keywords}} are written in uppercase." - to get "SQL" to join "reserved" you'd have to hyphenate them... – psmears Jan 21 '11 at 22:37

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