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Descriptive Writing
The Task
Describe a place where you feel most comfortable being your
authentic/genuine self.
Prewriting: Finding a Topic
To get started writing there are some questions to consider before you start:
What do I want this essay to accomplish? This assignment requires descriptive writing which
means you will be using details to create a dominant effect or impression for the reader.
What feeling do you want to help convey to your audience? (What tone are you trying to create?)
By naming the emotion that you are trying to communicate in your descriptive writing, it helps
to stay focused when you select which details you would like to include to convey that feeling to
your audience.
Which point-of-view would best serve your description? Youll have to decide which perspective
will best express the mood you are working to create. First-person lets the audience see
directly from your perspective; third-person removes the speaker from the writing a bit, making
it more general; second-person would be less appropriate as most teachers have developed
allergies to it.
What does your audience need to know about your topic? If you are writing about the halls of
Roosevelt, we all probably have a good sense of the space, and you can start considering which
details youd like to bring to our attention. If youre writing about a place most of us may not
have been, you might want to consider how you could help us immediately get the lay of the
What attitudes, beliefs, opinions, or biases is your audience likely to hold? Theres a chance
that your audience will not hold the same feeling about the space that you have selected to
describe; if theres a chance of that, you might consider how you will open your work to set the
scene in a way that immediately puts them in the same mind-frame. Consider how you can
make your dominant impression appeal to your audience.
Then, its helpful to jot down ideas using pre-writing strategies. Some ideas to consider:
Free writing
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o Write nonstop. Writing often forces thought.
o Dont be concerned with grammar, punctuation, or spelling.
o Write fast try to keep up with your thinking.
o Record ideas as they come to you and in whatever form they appear words,
phrases, questions, or sentences.
o Write your space and tone in the middle of a blank sheet of paper, and draw a
box or circle around it.
o Think of items that you would find in your space, write them down in clusters
around the topic, connecting them to the topic with lines.
o Draw arrows and lines or use highlighting to show relationships and connect
groups of related ideas.
o Think of which details from the items you would like to focus on in your
description, clustering them around the ideas on your map.
Brainstorming (or group brainstorming)
o List everything you can think of about your topic: record impressions, emotions,
and reactions, as well as facts.
o List them as you think of them in brief words or phrases (no complete sentences)
o Highlight the most vivid, concrete details that will create pictures in your readers
Visualizing or Sketching
o Visualize your space in your mind.
o Draw your space note which details come to mind first and which escape you.
Research your Topic
o Go to your space & take notes.
First Draft: Topic & Structure DUE:
8/22 & 25
One of the characteristics of descriptive writing is an established vantage point: the point or
position from which you write a description. Think about these two types of vantage points
before you start writing:
Fixed vantage point: you describe what you see from a particular position (like a
stationary camera train on a subject from one direction).
Moving vantage point: you describe your subject from different positions (like a
hand-held camera capturing the subject from many directions).
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Effective descriptions must follow a clear method of organization; consider these possibilities
before you start writing:
Spatial order: for example, top to bottom, inside to outside, near to far, central
to surrounding
Chronological: how your space has changed over time
Least-to-Most or Most-to-Least: start by describing the most dominant details
and then move to less important details (or vice versa).
Revision: Style imagery, figurative language, diction, &
DUE 8/26 & 27
After you have your first draft, its time to look at how you can embellish or discard some
details to match your dominant impression. If the details do not support your dominant
impression (no matter how interesting they are), they should not be included. Give attention to
each of these suggestions in your writing:
Create images that appeal to the five senses: Sight, Sound, Smell, Touch/Texture, and Taste
Create comparisons by using figurative language: e.g., Metaphor, Simile, Personification, and
Avoid clichs like cold as ice or its a hop, skip, and a jump away
Dont used mixed metaphors like he was alone in this noisy hive with no place
to roost (Bonfire of the Vanities, Wolfe).
Examine your syntax and consider these writing strategies to strengthen your sentence
Begin your sentences in a variety of ways (No Two Sentences Start with the Same
Vary the length of your sentences (not all long, complex or short, choppy
Feel free to use coordinating conjunctions to make compound sentences (but
dont forget your commas Ms. Lange hates that).
Make sure no sentences end in a preposition.
Avoid starting sentences with a coordinating conjunction.
Read your paper aloud to someone; it should have an easy flow and rhythm that
matches your dominant impression/tone.
Review your diction and consider these strategies to strengthen your word choice:
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Eliminate weak verbs and adjectives
Avoid dead words or untouchables
Use consistent tense in your writing (present? past?)
Select accurate, strong, specific, powerful words that energize your writing
Use transitions consistently in the writing to show that you are moving from one
detail to the next
Final Draft: Usage, Punctuation, & Grammar check DUE:
8/28 & 29
These are common mistakes made in descriptive writing, check your writing for these possible
Use a comma between coordinate adjectives that are not joined by and.
o Kaiden was a confident, skilled pianist.
You can tell if you need a comma because they can be switched and it
still makes sense: Kaiden was a skilled, confident pianist.
Do not use commas between cumulative adjectives.
o Two frightened eyes peered at us from under the sofa.
You wouldnt write frightened two brown eyes.
Use a hyphen to connect two words that work together as an adjective before a noun.
o Well-used book
o Perfect-fitting shoes
o Foil-wrapped pizza
Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction when joining two independent clauses.
o I love writing descriptive papers, but they seem out of place when they are not
integrated into a full essay.
Writing Reflection
What do you consider your greatest strength in this paper?

What part of this paper would you revise again if you could?

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What do you think youve improved the most in the writing of this paper?

What was the most difficult thing you wrestled with in writing this paper?

What would you like Ms. Lange to think about as shes reading your paper?

FINAL Due Date: August 28

or 29

I Want an A Checklist
One moment has been magnified to
include significant details
Four of the five senses have been
incorporated into the writing:
o Sight
o Sound
o Taste
o Touch
o Smell
Dominant Impression is clear
Clear Vantage Point
Uses four of the five techniques of
Show, not Tell
o Action
o Internal dialogue
o Internal physical sensation
o Character features
o Dialogue
Theme can be inferred by audience
Writing is authentic, coming from
writers experience
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Paragraph focusses on one moment,
changes with topic, time, location,
or dialogue
Strong opening sentence(s)
Thoughtful transitions clearly show
how ideas connect
Sequencing that is logical and
o Spatial order:
top to bottom
inside to outside
near to far
central to
o Chronological
o Least-to-Most or Most-to-
Pacing is effective (writer knows
when to elaborate with details or to
pick up the pace and move on)
Paragraph structure matches the
purpose of writing and flows
Solid closing sentences that
drives home the dominant
impression or theme
No weak verbs or adjectives are
Included vocabulary that is striking
and varied
Consistent tense is used throughout
No dead words or untouchables
Transitions are used to make
reading clear and smooth
Complete sentences are used
throughout the writing
Sentences begin with a variety of
Sentences vary in length
No sentences end with a preposition
No sentences start with a
coordinating conjunction
Usage, Grammar, and
Use a comma between coordinate
adjectives that are not joined by and.
Do not use commas between
cumulative adjectives.
Use a hyphen to connect two words
that work together as an adjective
before a noun.
Use a comma before a coordinating
conjunction when joining two
independent clauses.
Use MLA heading