Descriptive Writing Techniques

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Descriptive writing is just that: verbally describing a specific thing, be it an object, person or moment in time. Effectively, descriptive writing is the quintessential idea of "painting a pictures with words." Many students and adults struggle with descriptive writing because it is a form of writing that they are not used to, though some simple techniques can help strengthen even a beginner's attempts.

1 Brainstorming

One important aspect of descriptive writing is to really know what you want to write before you put pen to paper. This is especially important because descriptive writing is typically focused on one central event, object or person; you do not want to start writing on one thing, and then abruptly switch to another in the middle of your piece. Take time to visualize your subject, writing down various adjectives as they come to mind.

2 Choose Your Words Wisely

Choosing what words to use in your descriptive writing piece is an extremely important part of the process because the piece will only be as strong as the words in it. You cannot create a strong mental image of an event or object if the adjectives describing it are weak. One good technique for finding the right word is to use a thesaurus; indeed, a thesaurus is an important tool in writing a descriptive essay because repetition of words can cause the audience to lose interest very quickly.

3 Appeal on Multiple Levels

Another important technique of descriptive writing is to appeal to the audience on as many levels as possible. Try to describe the subject with all five senses, if applicable (for example, if it is a meal, don't forget to describe the visual aesthetics along with the taste and smell). Moreover, consider the strength of pathos (an emotional appeal to the audience) when doing descriptive writing. While the goal of descriptive writing is not to sway your audience to one side or another (that's persuasive writing), using emotion in your piece can help your audience relate to your subject.

4 Rewrite

Like with most writing, a good descriptive writing technique is to go back over your work, edit and rewrite as necessary. When rereading your descriptive writing piece, be sure to ask yourself several important questions, such as "Who is my audience?" and "Would I understand what is being described if I had never seen it before?" A good descriptive writer creates a work that can be understood by individuals who have never seen the subject.

Drew Lichtenstein started writing in 2008. His articles have appeared in the collegiate newspaper "The Red and Black." He holds a Master of Arts in comparative literature from the University of Georgia.