What is DESCRIPTION?
Description can be defined as the expression, in vivid
language, of what the five senses experience. A richly
rendered description freezes a subject in time,
evoking sights, smells, sounds, textures, and tastes
in such a way that readers become one with the
Two types of description
Straightforward, literal, unbiased (reporters,
scientific writers, technical writers)
Highly personal view to elicit an emotional
• Denotations- neutral, dictionary definitions
(The large crowd moved as a mass onto the
• Connotations- emotionally charged words
(The rowdy mob stampeded onto the field.)
• Can be both in the same sentence
(Although his hands were large and misshapen by
arthritis, they were gentle to the touch, inspiring
confidence and trust.)
• Choose a subject
• Determine your purpose, audience, tone, and
point of view
– Inform or evoke an emotional response?
– Who are you writing for? What does the audience
– What tone and point of view will best serve your
purpose and make readers receptive to your
Use prewriting to generate details
about the subject
• What comes to your mind when you apply the
– What sounds predominate? (volume, pitch)
– What can you touch and how does it feel?
(temperature, weight, texture)
– What do you see? (color, pattern, shape, size)
– What smells can’t you forget? (pleasant, unpleasant)
– What tastes are memorable?
Strategies for using description in an
• Focus the essay around a dominate impression
• Select the details to include (must support the
– Be selective in the number of details you include
– Excessive detailing dilutes the essay’s focus
• Organize the descriptive details
– Sensory impression
Provide transitional signal devices. For example:
Next, worst of all, on the left…
Perhaps the descriptive essay will not have a
traditional thesis statement
• Use vivid sensory language and varied
– The connotative language must be rich and vivid.
Do not rely on vague generalities.
– Appeal to the senses.
The food was unappetizing.
The stew congealed into an oval pool of muddybrown fat.
• Descriptive writing demands an abundance of specific
However, avoid overloading your sentences with
too many adjectives. Find the right powerful
word. (the tiny town; the hamlet)
Verbs are stronger than adverbs. (She walked
casually into the room and deliberately tried not
to pay attention to their stares. She strolled into
the room and ignored their stares.)
• Try adding onomatopoeia. (buzz, sizzle, zoom)
• Experiment with similes, metaphors and
Moving as jerkily as a marionette on strings, the
old man picked himself up off the sidewalk
and staggered down the street.
The teacher lurked in the hall, motionless and
ready to pounce on any student without a
The scoop of plain vanilla cried out for hot fudge
sauce and a sprinkling of pecans.
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