Prof. Mara Luna
Intermediate English I
To be used with “Refining Composition Skills” by Regina L.
Smalley 6th edition
*It is a paragraph that uses
sensory details to paint a picture
of a place, person, or an object.
*Our lives are filled with places, people, and events.
*Often, we think about a place, we not only see it in detail,
but we also smell the smells and hear the sounds associated
with it. We remember what important event happened
*This is also true with people. Certain people are important
in our lives –our parents, family members, teachers, others–
and again, when we think about a particular person, we see
the details and hear the sounds of that individual and
remember –even with just a feeling- his or her impact in our
*For description, writers must use words to
describe what they see, smell, hear, and feel.
*The description is successful if it is so vivid
that it recreates these sensations for the
*One way to recreate these sensations with
words is to use similes and metaphors to
compare the thing being described with
something familiar to the reader.
*A simile is an expression that compares two things
using the word like or as + a noun phrase.
*The tree wears the snow like a white fur coat.
*A metaphor is a comparison that does not use the
words like or as.
*The snow on the tree is a while fur coat that protects it
from the winter.
*Using similes and metaphors is a good way to make
descriptive writing vivid, especially when you do not
know a vocabulary word or when you just want to use a
more creative tone.
*For example, imagine describing someone’s eyes that
were green with specks of brown in them – a deep
hazel. If than person had just been crying, the
description could be, “Her eyes look like the forest
after a rainstorm – dark green and brown and moist”.
*The logical arrangement of ideas and sentences in a
narrative paragraph is chronological – according to
*When you are describing the way something looks –
its physical appearance – it is not time but space that
*Therefore you should arrange your sentences and
details according to where the objects being
described are located. This type of organization is
called spatial organization.
*In describing a room, what should you describe
first? The walls? The floor?
*Unlike the chronologically-developed paragraph,
there is no set pattern for arranging sentences in
this type of descriptive paragraph.
*Nevertheless, the sentences should not be
randomly arranged. The description must be
organized so the reader can imagine the scene
*The arrangement of the details in a descriptive
paragraph depends on the subject. The selection
and the description of details depend on the
*When painting a picture with words, you can
begin from left to right, from right to left, from
top to bottom, or from bottom to top.
*Sometimes, though, the description can focus on
some object that dominates the scene or on
something that is unusual in the scene.
*In this case, it may be desirable to focus on an
object and describe it first, since it is the first
*Describing what can be perceived with the senses
(sights, sounds, smells, touch, tastes) makes the
scene even more vivid and interesting.
*How would you describe a person?
*Depending on the subject or assignment, you
could describe the person’s physical appearance,
since the principle of organization is spatial, for
the most part.
*Here are just a few ways you can describe a
person’s appearance: style of clothing, manner of
walking, color and style of hair, facial appearance,
body shape, expression, way of talking.
*What you choose to describe depends on your
topic and purpose.
*When describing a person, you are not obliged to
describe every single detail about the person’s
*Sometimes it is better to focus on one or two
outstanding features that convey something about
the person’s character.
*Details in descriptive paragraphs are organized
spatially to give the reader a clear picture of
the scene being described.
*Clarifying the spatial relationship with spatial
expressions helps to achieve coherence.
*These spatial expressions are called adverbs of
place; most of them are prepositional phrases
(prepositions + noun phrase).
Some of the expressions used to clarify space
on the second floor behind the chair
straight ahead on top of the television
under the windows above the bookcase
on your left in the corner
over the table underneath the desk
on the right-hand side opposite the bed
against the wall along the back of the house
*The details in a descriptive paragraph should not only be
logically arranged but also vivid.
*To make the details more vivid, you need to modify them
(Modify means to restrict or narrow down the meaning.)
*Nouns can be modified in three ways: by adding
adjectives, by adding adjective and prepositional phrases,
and by adding clauses.
*Each time a modified is added to a noun, a class to which
it belongs is restricted. Ex. a book – a red book – a red
paperback book – a red paperback book with a torn cover
*Another way to improve coherence is to use adjective
*An adjective clause is a dependent clause that
modifies a noun.
*The subordinators that introduce adjective clauses
include: who, whom, whose, that, and which.
*Less common adjective clause subordinators are :
when, where, and why.
*Example: It’s a small mouth that looks delicate and
*Example: As you walk into the room, you are stopped by
my bed, which fills half the room.
*You have learned that a coherent paragraph is one
that has logically arranged sentences and ideas; in
addition, in order for a paragraph to be coherent,
the sentences should flow smoothly.
*If the sentences in a paragraph are short and if the
sentences contain a lot of repeated words, the
paragraph is choppy.
*By combining a few sentences using adjective
clauses, some of the repeated words can be
eliminated and the sentences flow more smoothly.
*How to write a descriptive paragraph:
*Tips for good descriptive paragraphs:
*The Descriptive Paragraph: