Nothing could be finer (adjective forms)

A reader from Charlotte, Anita Keller, sends two of her peeves:

The first is the trend toward not using superlatives [comment from Pam: and comparatives]. Example, "more quiet" for "quieter". It happens all the time. It seems I notice it more and more every day. The other gripe I have is how society now says "It was so fun". When I was growing up, learning English, it was always "so /much /fun" or "such fun". Why does that seem to have changed? What is the rule that prohibited "so fun" to start with?

As I told Anita when I replied to her e-mail message, I agree with her about the problem with using adjectives in the comparative and superlative forms. I think people have forgotten what they learned in the third or fourth grade. One-syllable adjectives and some two-syllable adjectives need -er or -est to make the comparative and superlative forms. Many adjectives of two syllables and all adjectives of three syllables or more need more or most (or less or least). Of course, irregular forms can throw us off — good, better, best and bad, worse, worst. But if you are in doubt, look for the adjective in a good dictionary. The entry will give you irregular forms and will often give regular forms. If no form is explicitly spelled out, use the regular form. Most of the time, it seems to me, the sound will give you the right choice: warmer sounds right; more warm doesn’t. An English as a Second Language site has a useful tutorial. You’ll find a little test at the bottom of the page.

Although I am not bothered by "so fun" in speech, I avoid using "fun" as an adjective in writing. The usage is changing on this word, it appears, but you are safer sticking with the standard in writing. Use "fun" as a noun, and you won’t offend.

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.