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Descriptive Writing


Description is used in all forms of writing to create a vivid impression of a person, place, object or event. For example:

  • describe a special place and explain why it is special

  • describe the most important person in your life

  • describe the animal's habitat in your report


Descriptive writing is usually used to help a writer develop an aspect of their work, eg. to create a particular mood, atmosphere or describe a place so that the reader can create vivid pictures of characters, places, objects etc.



Description is a style of writing which can be useful for a variety of purposes:

  • to engage a reader's attention

  • to create characters

  • to set a mood or create an atmosphere

  • to bring writing to life.



  • aims to show rather than tell the reader what something/someone is like

  • relies on precisely chosen vocabulary with carefully chosen adjectives and adverbs.

  • is focused and concentrates only on the aspects that add something to the main purpose of the description.

  • sensory description - what is heard, seen, smelt, felt, tasted. Precise use of adjectives, similes, metaphors to create images/pictures in the mind eg Their noses were met with the acrid smell of rotting flesh.

  • strong development of the experience that "puts the reader there" focuses on key details, powerful verbs and precise nouns.


Planning for descriptive writing

The descriptive writing will follow the style and process for the specific writing (e.g. narrative, report, recipe, recount) so the planning focus will be on developing the rich vocabulary that will create vivid imagery for the reader.

Some processes that might be useful in scaffolding this for the writer are:

  • Read quality descriptions to your students and then unpack what makes them effective.

  • Close your eyes and imagine the scene, character or article that you are describing to get a really well defined, vivid image in your mind.  Brainstorm words that come to mind to describe what you are visualising.

  • Where appropriate, find the object that you are describing e.g. the monarch butterfly, caterpillar, pupa and study each of its parts in order to describe the whole.  Or find pictures online.

  • Use the 5 senses to add more than just visual cues.

  • Use an online thesaurus to find more expressive options - richer verbs, more precise nouns, adjectives, adverbs, synonymns.

  • Select the best for each aspect of your description - don't use them all just because you can.

  • Write simple descriptive phrases and then work these into a descriptive sentence or paragraph.

  • Review your writing and add, delete or replace sections until you have created a vivid picture.

  • Have someone else read your description and give you feedback on how well they were able to create the image in their heads.  Was there anything they didn't understand?  Do they have any suggestions that would improve your description? Try using  Etherpad, using the chat box for feedback, or use your class blog or wiki with a prelude that explains that the writing is still at draft stage and seeking feedback before finalising and editing.

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