What is it? How and when is it helpful?


-Description is when you tell the readers about the physical characteristics of a person, place or thing.

-Description relies on the five senses – sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.

-Through description you communicate your of the world to your readers.

-There are two kinds of description; objective description and subjective description.

Objective Description: You focus on the object itself rather than focusing on your personal reaction to it.

- Purpose of objective description is to provide a precise and literal picture of the person, place, or thing you’re describing.

*Biologist would use objective description when describing what he/she is seeing through a microscope.

* A historian would also use objective description when describing a Civil War battlefield.

• Subjective Description: Used to communicate your personal response to the person, place, or thing you’re describing.

- Subjective description should not be just a literal record of sights and sounds, but also their significance and/or your feelings towards it.

* You could write a subjective description about a desk in your room by saying it could be a “warm brown rectangle of word whose surface reveals the scratched impressions of a thousand school assignments.”

- To help create a subjective description, you use figures of speech such as simile, metaphor, personification, and allusion.

* Simile: A simile uses like or as to compare two unlike things.

* Metaphor: A metaphor compares to unlike things without like or as.

* Personification: Personification is giving human-like characteristics to an idea/concept or object.

* Allusion: Allusion is when you reference to a person, place, event, or quotation that you think the reader will recognize.

- To make a quality subjective description avoid using just using words such as nice, great, terrible, awful, etc. but explain what evoked that feeling.

* Bad: “His anger frightened me.”

* Good: “The anger that caused his hands to clench into a fist and the corner of his mouth to twitch frightened me to my core.”

• Objective vs. Subjective: The difference between the two.

- If you describe a fire objectively, you might try to describe it as accurately as possible by including the temperature, the duration of the flames, the fire’s movement, the height of the flames, and so on.

- However, if you described it subjectively, you might try to re-create (for your readers) a sense of how the fire made you feel – your reaction to the noise, to the dense smoke, to the destruction, and so on.

Planning a Descriptive Essay

- Developing a Thesis Statement: Writers often use an Implied thesis which allows them to convey an essay's point subtly, through the selection and arrangement of details. Writers also use an Explicitly stated thesis which lets reader what point the writer is making- for example, "The sculptures that adorn Philadelphia's City Hall are a catalog of nineteenth-century artistic styles."

*Whether you state or imply your thesis, the details of your descriptive essay must work together to create a single Dominant Impression - the mood or quality emphasized in the piece of writing.

Structuring a Descriptive Essay

Descriptive essays begin with an introduction that presents the thesis or establishes the dominant impression that the rest of the essay will develop. Each body paragraph includes details that support the thesis or convey the dominant impression. The conclusion reinforces the thesis or dominant impression, perhaps echoing an idea stated in the introduction or using a particularly effective simile or metaphor.