Language in Diversity


There are some definitions of descriptive writing such as:

According to Kane (2000: 352), Description is about sensory experience such as how something looks, sounds, tastes. Mostly it is about visual experience, but description also deals with other kinds of perception.[1]

Richard Nordquist  said that descriptive writing is the clear description of people, places, objects, or events using appropriate details. an effective description will contain sufficient and varied elaboration of details to communicate a sense of the subject being described. details used are usually sensory and selected to describe what the writer sees, hears, smells, touches, and tastes.[2]

On the other hand, Mcdougal claims that descriptive writing describes an object, place, or person in a way that creates a vivid impression in the reader’s mind, enabling the reader to visualize what is being described, and to feel that he/she is very much part of the writer’s experience.[3]


The primary purpose of descriptive writing is to describe a person, place or thing in such a way that a picture is formed in the reader’s mind. Capturing an event through descriptive writing involves paying close attention to the details by using all of your five senses. Teaching students to write more descriptively will improve their writing by making it more interesting and engaging to read.

A descriptive essay is a form of academic writing that is built around a detailed description of a person, building, place, situation, notion, etc. The main purpose of a descriptive essay is to describe your point of focus in a vivid and particular manner, so that readers can easily picture the described object, person or state in their mind.


Descriptive writing appeals to the senses, so it tells how something looks, feels, smells, tastes, and/or sounds. A good description is a word picture; the reader can imagine the object, place, or person in his or her mind. A description usually follows a pattern of organization that we call spatial order. Spatial order is the arrangement of things in space.[4]

Just as there are words and phrases to show time order, there are words and phrases to show spatial organization. They are often prepositional phrases of location or position. Notice the kinds of expressions used to show time order.

Use spatial order to organize a description. Spatial order is the arrangement of items in order by space: back to front, left to right, top to bottom, far to near, and so on.

Use spatial order expressions to show the order. Examples of spatial order expressions are on the dashboard of my car, in front of the sofa, and in the distance.[5]


    1. The generic structure of descriptive text consists of identification and description.
      Identification: Identifies phenomenon to be described.
      Description: Describes parts, qualities, characteristics, etc.[6]
    2. Descriptive Essay

Structuring a Descriptive Essay

A descriptive essay simply describes something or someone by appealing to the reader’s senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. Here are the basic steps to writing an effective descriptiveessay:

1.      Select a subject

Observation is the key to writing a good description. For example, if you are writing about a place, go thereand take notes on the sights, sounds, and smells. A descriptive essay paints a picture for the reader, usingdescriptive devices and the senses. Create a thesisstatement that informs the reader who or what you aredescribing. Examples: “The wooden roller coaster in Coney Island is a work of art.” “My bedroom is anocean sanctuary.”

2.      Select dominant details

Select only the details that support the dominant impression (your thesis statement).

3.      Organize details

The paragraphs in a descriptive essay can be structured spatially (from top to bottom or from near to far) or chronologically (time order) or from general to specific. Descriptive essays can also use other patterns oforganization such as narrative or exemplification.

4.      Use descriptive words

Do not use vague words or generalities (such as good, nice, bad, or beautiful). Be specific and use sensory, descriptive words (adjectives). For example: I ate a good dinner. OR I devoured a steaming hot, cheese-filled pepperoni pizza for dinner.

Provide sensory details:

  • Smells that are in the air (the aroma of freshly brewed coffee)
  • Sounds (traffic, honking horns)
  • Sights (“The sun scattered tiny diamonds across dew-covered grass as it peeked out from beyond the horizon.”)
  • Touch (“The texture of the adobe hut’s walls resembled coarse sandpaper.”)
  • Taste: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, tart (“Giant goose bumps formed on my tongue when I accidentlybit into a sliver of lemon.”)

 5.      Draw a logical conclusion

The conclusion may also use descriptive words; however, make certain the conclusion is logical and relevant.


In writing a descriptive text, the writers should pay attention to the language features of it. Some of language features in descriptive writing will explain as follow:

1.      Using Vivid Nouns

Nouns are words that name persons, places, things, or events. Vivid nouns give specific description about something. For example, the word ‘bird’ does not give the reader an exact mental picture. A specific noun, such as canary, cockatoo, dove, etc would give a clear image to the reader.

2.      Using Vivid Adjectives

Adjectives are used to explain nouns or pronouns, which are stated in the sentences. Without adjectives, the readers of the writing cannot imagine how the objects look like. Vivid adjectives give real visualizations to the readers.


  1. A beautiful colorful garden
  2. A kind handsome man
  3. Small brown tables
  4. Thin English books
  5. A cute girl

3.    Using Vivid Verbs

A good descriptive writing usually uses specific verbs to describe actions. It will help the reader to visualize the actions, which are described by the writer. To know vivid verb can influence the meaning, let us compare these to sentence:

  • He saw me from the corner of the room.
  • He glanced me from the corner of the room.

Although those two verbs have the same meaning, the word ‘glanced’ gives a real visualization.

4.    Using Action Verbs

In descriptive writing, action verbs are usually used to show an activity of the object. Examples:

  1. He walks with pride and grace.
  2. They always run around the garden
  3. She usually wakes up in the morning.
  4. It sleeps under the table.

5.    Using Adverbs

Adverbs are words that describe verbs or adjectives. The writers use adverb to describe actions and to tell how, why, and when something happened. Examples:

  1. The canary sings beautifully.
  2. The waves crashed the shore in the afternoon.

6.    Using Figurative Language

       To make the readers see, hear, and even feel what it is the writer are writing about. They must use figurative language to describe things. There are several types of figurative language that can be easily accessed by the readers.

a.      Simile

This is a form of figurative language that most readers are familiar with it. Similes compare two different objects using “like” or “as.”

Example: Her eyes sparkled like diamonds.

                            Diana’s lips are red like roses.

  1. b.      Metaphor

This is another type of figurative language that many readers have had experience with it. It is also a comparison between two different things, but unlike similes, metaphors do not require the use of like or as.

Example: Life is an adventure.

                            Love is blind.

c.       Personification

Personification gives human qualities and/or characteristics to an inanimate object.

Example: The flowers dance in the breeze.

                            The moon came out from its place.[7]



by Barbara Carter

Gregory is my beautiful gray Persian cat. He walks with pride and grace, performing a dance of disdain as he slowly lifts and lowers each paw with the delicacy of a ballet dancer. His pride, however, does not extend to his appearance, for he spends most of his time indoors watching television and growing fat. He enjoys TV commercials, especially those for Meow Mix and 9 Lives. His familiarity with cat food commercials has led him to reject generic brands of cat food in favor of only the most expensive brands. Gregory is as finicky about visitors as he is about what he eats, befriending some and repelling others. He may snuggle up against your ankle, begging to be petted, or he may imitate a skunk and stain your favorite trousers. Gregory does not do this to establish his territory, as many cat experts think, but to humiliate me because he is jealous of my friends. After my guests have fled, I look at the old fleabag snoozing and smiling to himself in front of the television set, and I have to forgive him for his obnoxious, but endearing, habits.[8]


[3] McDougal Littell’s The Language of Literature and Writer’s Craft)

[4] Alice Oshima and Ann Hogue, Introduction to Academic Writing, (U.S.A: Pearson Education, 2007), p. 61

[5] Ibid, p. 73

[6] Jenny Hammond in Mursyid, M. PW, 2011

[7] Hutchinson, Emily. 2005. Descriptive Writing. United states: Saddleback Educational Publishing-Inc.

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