How to improve your descriptive writing

Descriptive writing is an important literary device used in writing. It helps to create a detailed image in the reader’s mind about the characters, settings, and events in the story.

Writers often use the five senses in descriptive writing. The five senses are sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch.
There are many literary devices that writers can use to improve their descriptive writing.

Click here to learn about literary devices and how to use them in writing.
An easy way to practice descriptive writing skills is to look at picture and try to describe it using language techniques.

Let’s look at an example:

I can see the green grass and the tall trees.
I can smell the fresh scent of the blooming flowers.
I can hear the birds chirping.
I can taste the fresh air on my tongue.
I can feel the wind blowing.

This description sounds repetitive and quite basic. We can improve this description by using a range of language techniques, interesting verbs, adjectives, and effective vocabulary. This will help to engage the reader, and it will help to create an image in the reader’s mind.

Here is the improved version:
As I walk through the enchanted forest, I am greeted with the fresh smell of scented flowers. Their bright colours glow in the sunlight. Chirping birds happily dance around in the sky as the trees wave their arms in excitement.
The warm spring breeze softly brushes against my face as I walk along the freshly grown grass. Slowly, the refreshing air lands on my tongue filling me with happiness.

So why is this description more effective?
The reason is that there are various language techniques used.

• The use of the adjective “enchanted” suggests the forest is magical and fascinating
• The use of the adjective “scented” allows the reader to almost smell the pleasant smell of the flowers.
• The use of the verb “chirping” brings life to the picture, helping to create a feeling of happiness and delight.
• By giving the trees a human quality such as “trees wave” further emphasises how vibrant and full of life the atmosphere is. This is an example of personification.
• Personification is used again by giving a human quality to the breeze as it “brushes against my face” – the fact that it brushes against the face softly suggests that the weather is not harsh, rather it is pleasantly warm with cool winds.
• Finally, the use of the verb “filling” emphasises the extent to which the narrator feels a sense of happiness and delight. As opposed to just saying “it made me happy” which doesn’t allow the reader to imagine exactly how happy the narrator is.

Let’s look at another example:

I can see the bright blue water and the golden sand.
I can smell the fresh air.
I can hear people talking and children playing.
I can taste the saltwater on my tongue.
I can feel my feet sinking into the soft sand.
Again this description is quite repetitive and boring as it lacks language techniques.

Here is the improved version:
Slowly, the bright blue sea crawls towards the golden sand. The fresh air enters my nose as I make my way down the seashore. With every step, I can feel my feet sink into the smooth sand, and the taste of the salty seawater lands on my tongue.
The sound of the violin echoes along the coast as I begin to dance around on the sand elegantly.
This description is improved through the use of effective verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and language techniques.

• The use of alliteration in “bright blue” draws attention to the sentence, helping to emphasise how vibrant and beautiful the sea is.
• The use of the verb “sink’” suggests that the sand is so smooth, it almost absorbs anything that is placed on it.
• The use of the verb “echoes” suggests that the beach is huge as the sound travels along the coast.
• The use of the adverb “elegantly” creates a pleasant and graceful image that reflects the surroundings.

Now you try!
Take a look at this picture and try to describe it using language techniques.

Then watch the video to find the example description.

Watch the video