Descriptive Writing: Definition, Techniques & Examples

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  • 0:00 Definition of…
  • 1:12 Descriptive Writing Techniques
  • 2:56 Example of Descriptive Writing
  • 4:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Andrew Sedillo

Andrew Sedillo has taught Language Arts, Social Studies, and Technology at a middle school level. He currently holds a Bachelor's of Arts in Education, Master's of Arts Educational Learning Technology, and a Graduate certificate in Online Teaching and Learning.

This lesson will assist you in identifying descriptive writing found in literature and ways you can apply it in your own writing. Learn more about literary style and test your understanding through a quiz.

Definition of Descriptive Writing

Take some time to think about the differences between a short and a long conversation that you've had with someone about a specific event. Chances are that the short conversation lacked details and got straight to the point. The long conversation most likely had so much detail that you could almost picture yourself being there now.

Or, think about getting directions from friends. If you were invited to a party, would you prefer the directions that just said, 'By the school,' or would you prefer detailed directions that provide specific streets? Description is an important part of daily life and has an even bigger role in writing.

Descriptive writing is a literary device in which the author uses details to paint a picture with their words. This process will provide readers with descriptions of people, places, objects, and events through the use of suitable details. The author will also use descriptive writing to create sensory details as a means of enhancing the reading experience. If done effectively, the reader will be able draw a connection through the use of sensory details that include seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting. These techniques will assist you in becoming not only a better writer, but will also make your writing more engaging for readers.

Descriptive Writing Techniques

Here are some examples of descriptive writing techniques that you can utilize and effectively apply to your own writing.

Choosing your focus: When you first begin writing, it's extremely important to decide what your topic is going to be. This will prevent you from losing focus on the theme or main idea of your writing. When you decide what you are going to write about, you can begin to add details about the specific event, object, or person.

Use of words: In most cases, you'll use adjectives to make your writing more detailed for the reader. For example, rather than just saying: 'The dog sniffs around,' you'd say: 'The big brown dog sniffed around the red rose bushes in the front yard.' The use of 'big,' 'brown,' 'red rose bushes,' and 'front yard' assists the reader in visualizing the event and what the dog looks like. This process will allow the reader to create a mental image through the use of your word choice.

Reader interest: As a writer, it's important paint a picture with your words. One of the best ways to do this is through the use of the five senses. This won't only engage your target audience, but it'll appeal to other readers as well. By using taste, smell, hearing, sight, and touch, you are creating an opportunity for the reader to develop an emotional connection to your writing.

Re-reading and redo: Re-reading what you write is an important step in the descriptive writing process. This gives you time to reflect on whether or not you need to add more details to your writing. Putting yourself in the readers' position is important. Ask yourself after reading your writing, 'Would I be able to understand the main topic of my writing if I had no prior exposure?' This should indicate whether or not more details are needed.

Always remember, good descriptive writing is done well if the main topic of your writing is understood by all readers.

Example of Descriptive Writing

Now, let's take a look at a few samples that show us the difference between writing that is descriptive and writing that isn't.

Sample One: Lacking descriptive writing

I was nervous about my first day of school. My mother dropped me off in the front of the school. I got out of the car, and heard the bell ring. I walked to class. I found my class, and sat down in the front. My teacher walked in and yelled at me.

Sample Two: Use of the techniques

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