Tag Archives: Literacy

Five Tips for Descriptive Writing

1. Be consistent.

Your teachers may have told you about how to write and whether or not to choose to write in the first person or third person, the past or present tense. Whatever you choose, keep this up throughout your whole piece.

Here’s a reminder of what pronouns you will you use depending on your style of writing.


It’s worth remembering that some of the best descriptive writing will use words like it and its rather than any personal pronouns. To write descriptively, you don’t always have to imagine there is a person there to see and experience what you’re describing.

2. Make sure your sentences are complete:

When writing creatively, lots of students end up writing sentences like this:

“Cars speeding along the streets at the speed of light”

Do you notice how this sentence has no tense? You don’t know if the cars are speeding in the present or the past. This student needs to use small words like these to help their work stay absolutely clear:

 be (amareiswaswerebeing),

do (diddoesdoing),

have (hadhashaving),

Make sure you have picked a clear tense, and stuck to it throughout. Make sure your sentences are complete by correct using the words listed above.

3. Use prepositional phrases to help organise your work.

It’s really important to use a variety of sentence openers in your wok. This helps the reader stay interested and also shows that you are thinking carefully about variety in your work.

Too often, descriptive writers end up repeating certain words like ‘‘The/There/They/he/she’ to stay their sentences. This can make your work really list like and repetitive. One way of avoiding this is by using prepositional phrases, these help direct the reader through your work, and help them imagine what your describing.

Examples of prepositions: 

Beneath, behind, over, beside, near, above, next to, across, along, following, inside, near, opposite, outside, towards, with, without.

Preopisitional phrases:

  • Near the beach….
  • Opposite the trees…
  • Outside the shop….
  • Without a care in the world….

This document, which gives you lots of interesting ways to start sentences may also be helpful.

4. Avoid stating feelings and sensations too much.

When using the senses to describe, we often use words like ‘feel/see/hear/smell/tasted’. When we use these words, we are telling the reader what a certain feeling or sensation is like. It’s often much more interesting to be shown what this is like. Take the following example:

“He could smell the gorgeous baking smell of the pizza in the oven.”

This is quite boring, and simply tells the reader what the person could smell. But, this could be rewritten in a more interesting way if this writer chose a different word then ‘smell’. For example:

“The gorgeous baking smell of the pizza invaded his defenseless nostrils.”

Much more interesting!

5. Don’t just state things, describe them!

  • “The building looked like it was losing a war.”
  • “There was an exciting atmosphere”

After reading these two sentences, you can probably see that this isn’t very descriptive. This student is just saying what things are like rather than actually describing them.

Read your work carefully. Look for times that you name an object instead of truly describing it. Also, look for places you describe a mood or an atmosphere. Do you describe the small details and develop the description fully?

The building looked like it was losing a war. Could be rewritten as:

Bullet holes peppered the exterior of the building. Thanks to years of careless neglect, the clear grey of the concrete had darkened, artificially ageing this once great monument.