Using words to create imagery


Things to ponder:

  • What exactly is description? What does it appeal to?
  • In what ways could you describe something to someone?
  • In describing something, what do you think is the most important thing to focus on?
  • Where would/do you use description?

What Is Description?

  • Description tells about the physical characteristics of a person, place, or thing
  • Description relies on and appeals to the fives senses - sight, hearing, taste, touch, & smell
  • Detail is key.

  • What are some words that you would use to vividly describe something?

Uses of Description

  • College writing

    • Compare-contrast Essays: you could describe how one thing is better than another
    • Argumentative Essays: you could vividly describe something that has resulted from whatever you are arguing for/against
    • Narrative Essays: you could describe an event or experience

Objective vs. Subjective Description

  • Objective Description - Literal description of something, focusing solely on the subject
  • Subjective Description - Conveys personal response to subject

  • Objective description will mostly rely on words' denotations (direct meanings), while Subjective description will mostly rely on their connotations (emotional associations)

Objective vs. Subjective (Continued)

  • An objective description of a college football game would include the people's appearances and actions, the layout of the stadium, the outcome of and events during the game, and the weather during the game.

  • A subjective description would include how the writer feels about the teams and fans, the writer's reaction to the size and architecture of the stadium, the writer's feelings towards the results of the game, and the emotional impact of the weather and environment

Objective vs. Subjective (Continued)

  • Subjective descriptions may also make use of figurative language, such as:

    • Simile - comparison using like or as
    • Metaphor - comparison without using like or as
    • Personification - giving non-human things human-like traits
    • Allusion - reference to a person/place/event/quotation that the writer assumes the reader will recognize

  • Your audience and purpose determine whether you should use subjective or objective description
    • For example, an assignment that asks for your reaction would require subjective description, while other assignments like legal, medical, and scientific ones would require you to objectively describe something.

Writing a Descriptive Essay

  • Two ways of getting your main idea across in the introduction:
    • Implied Thesis - Conveying the essay's main point subtly through selection and arrangement of details
    • Explicitly Stated Thesis - Directly stating the main idea
  • Either way, your details must work together to form a dominant impression (mood or quality emphasized in the piece of writing)

  • Each body paragraph includes details that support the thesis/dominant impression
  • These can be ordered in a variety of ways, whichever seems most logical

  • Conclusion reinforces thesis/dominant impression
  • Could be done by restating or reiterating introduction, or by using a clever or effective simile or metaphor.


  • Pick something to describe. Anything at all.
  • Decide whether you want to objectively or subjectively describe it.
  • Now, briefly list what each paragraph would highlight.

  • Example (Week-long camping trip)
    • Introduction - I went camping in the mountains with some family friends, and it was a fun experience
    • Paragraph I - Fresh air and nature were very refreshing
    • Paragraph II - Rainy day
    • Paragraph III - Quality time spent with friends
    • Conclusion - The trip helped me get back in touch with nature and spend time with friends

Writing Assignment

Write a short descriptive essay about the topic you chose to outline, in about 10-15 minutes.

Collaborative Activity

  • Get into groups of three or four students
  • Within each group, agree on a famous person or character, and write a description of that person, being as detailed as possible.
  • However, don't make it too obvious who this person is
  • Give your description a general title, like what this person's role is - such as politician, TV star, superhero, etc.
  • Have one person from each group read out their group's description of the individual and see whether classmates can guess who the person is.


  • What exactly is description? What does it appeal to?
  • What are the two ways of describing things?
  • What's the difference between subjective and objective description?
  • What are some uses for description?