Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide

Essay Lab Glossary

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Description

Definition:

A description is um, a thing where, you know—it talks about the stuff.

See how much more effective this definition would be with a little description?

When you write an effective description, you create a scene or a picture in words so your reader can actually experience the events or circumstances you’re talking about. Kind of like a comic book without any drawings. Wow. We just made descriptions sound really boring.

Seriously though, they don’t have to be.

To create effective descriptions or “word pictures,” writers include sensory details so it’s easier for their readers to imagine all the details. If it’s relevant to what you’re describing, be sure to include details about all the five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. Keep in mind that it isn’t always appropriate to address all five. For example, we might want to know that the cute little pet pig was covered in dirt, squealing noisily, smelling like feces, and hairy to the touch; but if you go into taste, it’s really going to put a whole new spin on things. For the record, we’re sure he was delicious.

While you're at it, make sure to keep your language vivid and varied. If you describe everything positive with the same word—”good burrito, good friend, good bicycle, good shoes”—your reader’s going to get bored. He might also start to question the quality of your friendship, and whether you really value him at least as much as a burrito.

The best writers use lots of different words and all their different connotations, the way an artist uses color. To a writer, the chocolate cake isn’t just good—it’s marvelous, ace, first-rate, splendid, superb, wonderful, etc. It is also gone, by the way. Sorry. You should have gotten here earlier. It was almost as delicious as that pig.

Also, remember to vary sentence length. You’ve read boring writing. Boring writing sounds like this. The writing is choppy. All the sentences sound the same. The sentences are all the same length. They feel repetitive. They all have the same structure. There is no variation. You want to pull you hair out.

Okay, deep breath—we’re done. Maybe just this last one.

Done for real. Unfortunately, education is sometimes a wee bit painful. We only did it to demonstrate that boring writing uses the same type of simple sentence over and over again. Sophisticated, interesting writing mixes long sentences with short ones and uses language creatively. Also, it allows your reader to keep much more of their hair intact.