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Descriptive writing

Descriptive writing

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Tutor: Joel


Descriptive writing

In a nutshell

By writing descriptively, you give your text life. It should be as if the reader is entering the author's world and imagination. In this summary, you will learn how to write descriptively and what to include.


In order to write descriptively, you need to consider your audience, the form and the specifics of what you wish to describe. Ask yourself:

  • Who is your audience?
  • How will this affect your writing?
  • What form will work best for your idea?
  • How will your allocated form affect your writing?
  • What key details should you include?
  • What literary techniques will be most effective in your description?

It is also a good idea to use bullet points to list all of the items you want to include in your description. This will allow you to shape your writing to include all necessary descriptions, and therefore allow for a smooth flow of paragraphs that paint a vivid picture.

​​Strong opening 

Hooking the reader at the beginning of a piece of writing keeps them engaged and interested in how the story will unfold. 

  • What could you use to have a catchy opening?
  • Could you include hyperbole to exaggerate and draw emphasis?
  • What will be effective in grabbing the reader but also flows with the rest of your writing?

​​Main body

After a strong opening, it is now your task to thin the veil between page and reader. Strong description improves the believability and realism of your writing.

  • What key details must be included and emphasised?
  • How can you describe these effectively?
  • What is the most organic approach you can take to describe your idea?

Approaching descriptive writing

Time is not moving in descriptive writing. The purpose of descriptive writing is to paint a picture with your words. This image should be fully immersive, tapping into the five senses.

  • What can you see?
  • What can you hear?
  • What can you smell?
  • What can you touch?
  • What can you taste?

Imagine yourself leading an audience through a motionless photograph in a physical and emotional way.

  • How does the space make you feel?
  • There might be something happening outside the image that is significant.

As there is no plot, focus on vividly describing the location.

  • What minute detail can you include?
  • What does this achieve?
  • How does colour impact the scene?
  • Why have you chosen this time period? How does that affect the scene?

Describing people

Believability is the most important aspect of describing people.

  • How would this character talk?
  • How would they act?
  • Why would they behave like this?
  • What do they look like?

You should avoid giving a list-like description of a character's appearance. Focus on the key aspects of their appearance and how they convey meaning and personality.

Effective techniques



An object being similar to another means that they share certain characteristics. This allows a clear description as the reader has a point of reference.
Similar to a metaphor, this creates comparison more implicitly.
This sonic device creates immersion for the reader by providing a sonic presence to the writing.
Extreme exaggeration gives an impressionistic view of an object. Exaggeration is used as emphasis.
Prescribing an object with human-like qualities deepens its description and makes it easier to realise.
Sensory writing 
Writing with the senses creates an immersive description allowing the reader to imagine the world of the page clearer.
No apparent description
It is advisable to leave out common or obvious details in writing because they occupy a great deal of space. Make your writing more descriptive by filling that space with new words and ideas.
Pathetic fallacy
The personification of an area, an object or a weather pattern by giving it an emotional quality.

When to use descriptive writing

Whenever you can benefit from immersive scene-setting in your writing, use descriptive writing. If you wish to make the reader feel as though they are in your shoes, you should use descriptive writing. Your reader will be more likely to empathise with you if you write descriptively. In official communications and academic writing, you should refrain from using descriptive language. However, the majority of writing styles can benefit from the descriptive writing techniques.

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FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

How to describe people in descriptive writing?

What is the purpose of descriptive writing?

What is descriptive writing?


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